Archive for the ‘Build It Back Green’ category

Your Green Corner: DIY Winter Weatherization

December 9th, 2011

Andrew (far right) leading a weatherization demo.

Andrew Spaulding from our New Orleans office presented easy, do-it-yourself tips for weatherization during a Build It Back Workshop last week. On the topic of how people can keep their homes warm and dry throughout the winter — and cut their energy bills — he talked about weatherstripping, duct sealing, attic and floor insulation, basic water efficiency measures, and more. The discussion was driven by questions from the audience, and Andrew troubleshooted issues people raised about their homes.

Tilman Hardy, from CORE USA, was also on hand to address the environmental reasons for taking on weatherization projects and provided information on the various green building, contractor, and home energy rater certifications that are available. He walked attendants through how to find the right contractor for any larger-scale weatherization projects that they want to undertake on their homes, as well as how to find the various incentives and rebates available.

Below, a few of Andrew’s tips.

Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Seal Air Leaks: More than 30% of the cooled and heated air escapes a house through leaky windows, doors, fireplaces, recessed lights, drain lines, vents, and electrical outlets. Battle  this energy loss with caulk, weatherstripping, and foam. It will make your home more comfortable, while lowering your utility bills and reducing pest and moisture problems. Expert tip: Invest in high-quality caulk; cheap painters caulk will quickly dry out and crack.

Seal the Leaks in Your Ductwork: Leaky ductwork may account for as much as 30% to 50% of cooled and heated indoor air loss. Seal all joints and connections with mastic, a putty-like material available at most hardware stores. Expert tip: Never use duct tape! It will quickly dry out. Instead, use UL-181 foil tape.

Use Compact Fluorescent Lights Indoors and Outdoors: The easiest way to cut your energy costs is to swap regular, incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent ones (CFLs). Compared to regular bulbs, CFLs use ¼ of the energy and last 10 times longer. You can save $25 to $45 for each bulb over its life span. Expert tip: For a warmer quality of light, choose CFLs with a lower Kelvin rating (2,700-3,000K).

Green Shelter: Shirley Charlot in New Orleans

July 28th, 2011

blog_bibg_shirley_ charlot1After Hurricane Katrina forced her from her home of 15 years, 83-year-old New Orleans native Shirley Charlot suffered through the nightmare shared by so many others in New Orleans. She spent three nights in the Superdome before being evacuated to Houston, where she took up residence with her sister. Upon returning to the Holy Cross neighborhood more than six months later, Charlot discovered her home had been wrecked by wind and water.

It got worse: Two contractors defrauded Charlot, charging thousands of dollars for substandard work that created unhealthy conditions inside the house. Breathing problems forced her to make use of an oxygen tank and her energy bills often topped $400. As a retiree, Charlot was unable to afford living in her home.

Then the 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED) contacted Charlot through neighborhood canvassing and enrolled her in Historic Green’s “Spring Greening” weatherization initiative. Volunteers from all over the country descended on the 9th Ward to assist CSED, Historic Green, and Global Green USA for two weeks to help weatherize and green eight homes in the neighborhood.

Global Green’s Build It Back Green technical staff members Cody Wero and Andrew Spaulding led volunteers at Charlot’s home to seal ductwork, install radiant barrier, blow in cellulose insulation, install compact fluorescent light bulbs, and air-seal the home. As expected, the green repairs made to Charlot’s home resulted in a dramatic drop in her monthly bills. More dramatically, Charlot no longer needs to use an oxygen tank inside the house.

“Every night, I had to sleep under oxygen,” she said. “Since they did that insulation, I haven’t slept under oxygen one time. I’m about to call and tell them to come take those tanks!”

Editor’s note: Thanks to WegoWise for cross-posting this story on their blog.

Spring Greening in NOLA

March 28th, 2011
Volunteers from the University of Kansas pose with homeowner Ernest Taylor.

Volunteers from the University of Kansas pose with homeowner Ernest Taylor.

For two weeks in March, volunteers from all over the country swarmed the Ninth Ward for Historic Green’s annual Spring Greening event.

Global Green teamed up with Historic Green to lead volunteers in weatherizing homes for New Orleans residents. Our own tech team of Andrew Spaulding, Cody Wero, and Al Wilson helped teach proper duct-sealing, air-seal leaky floors, and perform amazing feats of flexibility to traverse treacherous attics.

Volunteers Albert and Andrew help Mr. Taylor build an attic hatch cover.

Volunteers Albert and Andrew help Mr. Taylor build an attic hatch cover.

Over the course of the two-week event, Global Green led work on the homes of Joseph Bernard, Shirley Charlot, and Ernest Taylor. Each of the homeowners had no shortage of stories to share with the volunteers and crew leaders.

Shirley Charlot’s tales of dealing with contractor fraud and damage done to her home made the work all that more important, while Mr. Taylor’s enthusiasm and willingness to chat about anything kept volunteers entertained as the retired HVAC contractor worked side-by-side with them.

One of the great things about the Spring Greening event was the diversity of the volunteers. College freshman from NYU weatherized homes alongside utility workers from Kansas. People came from all over the country to help make this historic community a more sustainable place.

In addition to teaching and leading teams, Global Green staff connected Historic Green with local materials from St. Claude Community Hardware, performed quality assurance and diagnostic testing on the homes, and gave tours of the Holy Cross Project to volunteers.

Global Green's Andrew Spaulding helps Mr. Taylor fit seals for his window air conditioning unit.

Global Green's Andrew Spaulding helps Mr. Taylor fit seals for his window air conditioning unit.

Not only did the Spring Greening help homeowners in the 9th Ward make their homes healthy and energy-efficient, but it also sent volunteers home with an awareness of the challenges New Orleans faces and how their own communities can learn from the work we’ve done to overcome them.

Historic Green volunteers pose outside the Holy Cross Project after their tour

Historic Green volunteers pose outside the Holy Cross Project after their tour

Does your child have the flu? Or could it be exposure to toxins in your home?

January 5th, 2011

New Orleans is known for its food, its music and its architecture, all of which have roots that are centuries old. All of these are good things, and in my mind great things. Except when it comes to old houses, old houses have layers and layers of old paint. The problem with old paint is Lead. Lead is costing us millions of dollars in medical bills and keeping New Orleans youth from having a chance to grow up in a healthy environment. » Read more: Does your child have the flu? Or could it be exposure to toxins in your home?

3 Oil Poems from NOLA

June 2nd, 2010




i go

and get

a shrimp po-boy

i have to



» Read more: 3 Oil Poems from NOLA

Planet Rock: We Salute You

April 19th, 2010

Pondering Earth Day last night at the Rue De La Course on Magazine street in New Orleans (drinking a chai tea and watching the rain fall), I was suddenly struck by something I heard Kevin Donovan (a.k.a. Afrika Bambaataa, namer of hip-hop) say in an interview. “You may love your hip-hop culture, your techno, your rock, your jazz, African, reggae, or what ever music you love, respect Mother Earth, cause if you don’t respect Mother Earth, She will spit your a** out.”

Like a song on repeat, these words kept playing in my head. I stared out the large glass window of the coffee shop and watched the strange, unique, beautiful people of NOLA shuffle by in the rain. Because I live in New Orleans, Donovan’s words held extra weight. We love our music, our food, our culture, but sometimes we forget what supports it, what provides it. Earth Day’s a good reminder. So I remind myself  to give thanks, and take it easy on Mother Earth. In my mind I always picture planet earth, from afar, as this little blue marble, beautiful, and realize it’s all we’ve got–we must learn to live together.

Build it Back Green: In The House

April 6th, 2010

For those that don’t know, I’ll give you a quick rundown on what we are doing: Build it Back Green reaches out to low-income families in New Orleans that are disproportionately affected by high energy prices then we mobilize them by providing free technical assistance and energy efficiency education. By educating people on how and why to weatherize their homes, we encourage community members to reduce their energy consumption. Energy efficient upgrades are a powerful way to combat climate change while improving quality of life.