The Greenest Event of them all, Part 4: Choosing the Right Venue

Looking to green your event? It all comes down to location, location, location. LEED buildings are designed to give occupants assurance that certain energy-saving features are installed, such as user-interface devices that call attention to simple things like turning off unnecessary lighting. However, LEED-certified venues are fare and few between, especially those designed for sporting events. Here are a few tips for conserving energy in the rest of those places.

Managing electricity – set electronic timers, if any. If there are no timers, staff and athletes can be instructed to turn off all lights when not in use and when away at night. This is easier said than done, but especially applicable for summer events, since natural lighting will be more prominent. One way is to place stickers under the light switches in bathrooms and offices reminding guests to hit the switch on their way out. If purchasing or installing appliances for the event, choose those appliances with energy-star (lo-energy) rating and compact fluorescent lighting.

Remember this is an ATHLETIC event, and it is possible to advise guests and athletes to use the stairs when possible, and avoid the elevator or escalator. Walking a flight of stairs is an easy way for athletes to begin to warm up, and getting the blood flowing is a great way to relieve cramping and stiffness in attendees who are sitting during the event.

Heating and Cooling – air conditioning is a key factor for indoor events in the summer and winter, such as swimming, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, wrestling and volleyball. When possible, use fans, which consume far less energy than air-conditioning units. Secondly, ensure your air-conditioning unit has been properly commissioned, which is one of the biggest (and cheapest to fix) sources of wasted energy.

For winter events, check that the venue is adequately weather-proofed. Extra insulation can be easily added by adding weather stripping or caulking to cover gaps in doorways, windows and other openings, which will reduce drafts and thus the heating load.

Lastly, don’t forget to monitor your energy use! This is a critical measure of success for your green-event program. In order to prove to those who are funding the event (not to mention guests and athletes) that you have made a difference, an easy way is to break out the energy bill showing kilowatt hours (kWh) of usage. Critically, it is important to get estimates or actual reports of the standard energy consumption in the venue prior to your event, as you can use this number to see how your savings stack up.


The Greenest Event of them all, Part 3: Setting the Stage – Accounting for Temporary Energy

Vancouver, English Bay at Sunset

Vancouver, English Bay at Sunset

What’s a big difference between hosting the entire Snowboard World Championships and an event such as the Men’s Parallel GS at the Olympics? If you guessed about 20,000 people, you’re right. While the former might draw 2,000 people in total, one Winter Olympic event will accommodate 10 times as many people on average…and Summer Olympic events are 2-3 times larger still. And all these people require expert planning for a huge increase in energy use – heating, electricity and/or air conditioning – which places a considerable financial and environmental load on the existing generating capacity.

But wait, don’t large stadiums fill this many people all the time? A few NFL arenas routinely accommodate over 80,000 spectators, and many sports boast giant ball parks, yet these stadia are built connected to the power grid and normally don’t require hundreds of propane tanks or diesel generators to operate on a daily basis.

But athletic events which occur occasionally (such as Championships), as well as premier events which overfill their venues, require planning for temporary energy.

Financially, the use of generators is a mixed bag. They allow the event manager flexibility to deploy backup power and heating when and where it is needed, but can be logistically challenging and expensive. And some events require backup power. The consequences of a lighting outage in the middle of the Opening Ceremonies would be a gigantic reputational blow – so much so that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has demanded triple or even quadruple redundancy in some venues.

Environmentally-speaking, it pays to minimize the use of generators as much as possible. Diesel generators in particular are less efficient that the large power plants behind the electrical grid. According to the GHG protocol, it takes 375 liters of diesel to contribute one ton of CO2 equivalent to the atmosphere. And an event such as the Torino Olympics in 2006 burns around 8,000,000 liters of fuel.

For 2010, Vancouver has considered several solutions for reducing generator use. The Games’ urban location and cooperation with BC energy giant BC Hydro has made one solution possible, a decision to install dedicated hi-voltage lines to large temporary venues from various substations within the city. While this may be impractical for other events to replicate, Vancouver has also worked with contractors to minimize the use of generators where possible, from reducing the number of backup heating generators (heating takes less time to be noticed by spectators, as opposed to lighting) to eliminating the need for warm-start generators.

Yet possibly the most important step that Vancouver is taking to reduce fuel consumption is actively tracking and reporting the amount of energy used. In the event-planning industry, it is usually tricky to tease out kilowatt usage from financial receipts – and the financial costs themselves are not always disclosed. Therefore, ensuring contractors and vendors provide energy reports along with the billing is critical to accounting for and reducing the environmental footprint of temporary energy.

Eco-Friendly Mother’s Day Gifts

Show your love for your mother and Mother Earth with these eco-friendly Mother’s Day Gifts:


1) Organic Flowers: Send a traditional Mother’s Day bouquet made with organic and eco-certified flowers. Ask your local florist for organic options, or shop online at places like Organic Bouquet.


2) Charitable Donation: Make a donation in your mother’s name to an environmental NGO or a charity such as “Save the Children”.


3) Origins Gift Set: Pamper Mom with Origins lotion, body scrub, or a gift set. Origins products are made with plants, organic ingredients, and 100% natural essential oils. Origins is committed to environmental practices and uses renewable resources, wind energy and recycled materials as much as possible. Before May 5th, enter “FF” at checkout and receive 25% off .


4) Eco-friendly Jewelry: Give your mother eco-friendly jewelry from the online boutique Jaszy’s Jewelry, which uses Fair Trade and recycled resources and donates a portion of its proceeds to environmental organizations.


5) Adopt-an-Animal: For $25, your kids can “adopt” one of 90 animals in honor of Mom. Proceeds support WWF’s conservation activities around the world.


6) Envirosax: Give your mom Envirosax and make it even easier for her to live green. These stylish, extremely compactable shopping bags can fit into even the tiniest of purses, and are super convenient for last-minute shopping trips. From April 24 – May 5, purchase any pouch (set of 5 bags) and receive a Retro Kitchen pouch ($28.50 value) free.


7) La Chamba Cookware: Support fair-trade practices and give your mother high-quality, all-natural clay cookware handmade in Colombia. To locate a retailer near you, email La Vida Verde Inc.


8) Paddywax Candles: Introduce your candle-loving mother to Paddywax’s Eco Collection. These high-quality soy candles are packaged using soy-based inks, hemp twine, and FSC-certified recycled paper.

Do you know which number plastic bottles are safe to reuse?

Apparently, according to Trusted, it is NOT recommended to re-fill plastic bottles made from #1 plastic. And many #7 plastic bottles (bottles made from non 1-6 resins or more than one resin) contains Bisphenol A, a harmful xenoestrogen that interferes with human hormonal messaging. (However, not all – Nalgene makes a non BPA bottle that is made of a #7 plastic)

However, numbers 2 (high density polyethylene), 4 (low density polyethylene), and 5 (polypropylene) should be safe.

One particularly important note to take away from the article is that many baby bottles are made from unsafe materials – as far as chemical toxins go, your best bet for your own water and for babies’ milk and juice is glass or #2 HDPE bottles.

For more info on baby-safe bottles, go here.

For a more in-depth look at the different types of plastic, go here.

Pringles Can Accessories and Bubble-Dye Origami Paper

Hi there folks,

Just wanted to share some videos I made for “eco crafts,” a green DIY fashion, arts, and crafts blog. One video shows how to turn Pringles cans from non-recyclables into recyclables AND cool accessories (hair clips and pins from the aluminum disc at the bottom). The other video explains how to make old printed-on paper into fun, kid-friendly origami paper with food coloring and soap bubbles.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Hey there folks,

As a vegetarian who always gets the short end of the stick at my family’s Thanksgiving meal, I thought I would share some neat recipes I found online in the hopes that you will add these great veggie options to your traditional holiday feasts (or, better yet, have an all-vegetarian thanksgiving!). And for those of you who want a Vegetarian Thanksgiving (or vegetarian Thanksgiving options) fast, you may be glad to know that many health food stores, including Whole Foods, offer pre-cooked Vegetarian Thanksgiving meals.

Appetizers, Dressings, and Sides

Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

Many of the appetizers and sides at a traditional Thanksgiving feast are already vegetarian. Here are some nice ideas for especially delicious foods or dressings that I found online:

Pumpkin Soup from

Vegan Gravy from

Praline Sweet Potato Casserole from

Vegetarian Stuffing from

Yams with a Cobbler Topping

Butternut Squash Chowder with Pears and Ginger from

Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Corn from

Main Course

Salisbury Tempeh

Salisbury Tempeh

For most vegetarians, this is where the traditional Thanksgiving meal becomes problematic. There are, of course plenty of turkey-alternatives to choose from: Tofurkey, Field Roast’s Celebration Roast, and Garden Protein’s Veggie Turkey Breast With Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing… any health food store should stock this sort of item, especially around Thanksgiving. I did a quick search and found a few other veggie main-course options that looked particularly delicious:

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie from

Tofu Turkey with Stuffing from

The Un-Meat Loaf from

Salisbury Tempeh from

Spanakopita A classic vegetarian recipe from Greece: rich and delicious spinach-cheese pie.

Helpful Hints

An SFGate Article highlights some great advice from bay area chefs, and has some nice recipes at the end.

— Diana Adkins Glassman, Insalata’s: Festive fall dishes should feature the best produce, such as butternut squash soup with cinnamon creme fraiche; a fennel salad with pears, radicchio, escarole and orange-anise dressing; open-face ravioli with baby artichokes, leeks and wild mushrooms; a side dish of sliced delicata squash. Use special ingredients such as pomegranate seeds, dried apricots, dried plums, persimmons.\

— Gary Woo, E & O Trading Company: Highlight grains and seasonal produce. Try breads with dipping sauces, chickpea curry, lemony lentils and a saffron rice pilaf. Use warm earth colors associated in table decor and menu.

— Hoss Zare, Zare on Sacramento: When shopping, walk around the market once to see what is fresh, then buy. Rely on produce that is seasonal and hearty such as portobello mushrooms, squash and peppers. Choose herbs carefully; their freshness can make or break a vegetarian meal.

Also check out this great guide on How to Have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving, which gives hints on how to accommodate vegetarian guests, how to prepare tofurkey, and several other helpful how-tos.

Have a Happy Veggie Thanksgiving, everyone!

Living Green: My Sustainable Halloween Costume


My Pocahontas Costume

My Pocahontas Costume

This year for Halloween my roommates and I decided to be the eight Disney Princesses. I excitedly volunteered to be Pocahontas, my all time favorite Disney heroine. Immediately I began to think of ways I could craft a costume while being sustainable and saving cash (luckily, the two go hand in hand!). The first thing I did was ask around for costume ideas; my friend’s were a great source of inspiration and many of them had items I could use for my costume. For example, I borrowed my friends turquoise necklace (one of Pocahontas’ key features) and in return I lent my friend a pair of white satin gloves for her Cinderella costume. I am always surprised to see what unique costume elements my friends are hoarding in their closets.

The next place I checked out was the local Salvation Army store, the Mecca of sustainable and affordable costumes. In general, local second hand stores are great places to look for costume basics: shirts, skirts, dresses, coats etc. You just have to get a bit creative with the apparel options. For example, a purple velvet night gown can be turned into a purple magician’s cape, or a pink dress can be turned into a Grecian Goddess’s gown.

At the Salvation Army, I was lucky to find a tan floor length sundress and some curtains that had a great fringe on them that I could use to border the dress (all for under $10). All I needed to do was shorten the dress and add some of the fringe from the curtains and my costume would be complete (not to mention, I would have the bragging rights to say that I made the costume myself).

So don’t be afraid to get creative with your costumes this year. The best place to start is in your closet and your friends’ closets. And remember to check out the local second hand store for some unique costume pieces. With a touch of creativity you can make a lasting impression with your sustainable Halloween costume!