do less harm

Thoughts about living in harmony on this planet

Severn Suzuki

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urges the world to ensure that our actions reflect our words.

Great Speech by Severn Suzuki, when she was a child, from the Earth Summit in 1992.  My favourites:

we buy and throw away, we buy and throw away, we buy and throw away,…

…we are afraid to share, even though we have more than enough…

…I am only a child but i know, if we spent all the money that we spend on war, we would spend on environmental answers, ending poverty and finding treaties, what a wonderful world we would live in.

It DOES seem ridiculous that we are told in kindergarten not to fight, but treat others with respect. However what we see in the international political arena is still a lot of fighting, billions of $$ spent on the war machine. How far along could we have come, if we spent this energy on finding solutions rather than fighting each other?

The video below shows the IUCN List of Threatened Species. Can we show respect to these species and ensure that they have sufficient habitat to keep living on this planet?


Written by dolessharm

July 20, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Living Green

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For over a year now, I have had the pleasure to live in the first LEED Platinum Multi-Use Building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a rating system, basically a scorecard of green features. It’s a voluntary system, but definitely THE benchmark for sustainable buildings in North America. LEED focuses on high performance building design, where long term performances in the entire life cycle of the building, such as energy and water consumption are taken into consideration. Other categories include sustainable site development, responsible resource management and indoor air quality, that promotes human health and well being.

View to the East – Into the Courtyard. The Siding is Cedar, which smells wonderful after a rainy day!

The Vento is definitely a show case of current best practices in Canada. Located in the center of Calgary in Bridgeland, just north of downtown across the Bow River, it is a mixed-use multi residential building featuring stores and a coffee house downstairs and townhouses upstairs.

View to the West – across Bridgeland towards downtown.

Its water performance is more than 50% better than a base building. Rainwater instead of potable water is collected on the roof and used to flush the toilet. That’s pretty rad!

A heat recovery ventilator, Low E, Argon Filled Windows and a good building envelope including the wall system by my former employer NASCOR (small world!) make it a building that uses a lot less energy than standard construction. Good thermal insulation also means good acoustical insulation: I have not heard my neighbours once through the walls – and they still seem to like me too, even though I enjoy listening to music!

Here is what the Canadian Green Building Council says are the notable features for this project:

* Optimizing energy cost performance of 47% better than the Model National Energy Code for Buildings, and energy consumption savings of 45%, through: enhanced building envelop performance with improved building insulation levels and double-glazed, argon-filled, low-e windows; exhaust air heat recovery; and, lighting occupancy sensors in the residential units and in the storage area of the basement;
* Providing Best Practice Commissioning and Measurement & Verification to ensure continued, optimal energy performance;
* Reducing indoor potable water use by over 50% through dual-flush toilets, low-flow lavatories and showers, and the use of rainwater for toilet flushing;
* Achieving an Innovation in Design credit for Water Management Advocacy through demonstrating the substantial environmental impact from the design team�s advocacy efforts; and,
* Providing exceptional indoor environmental quality by achieving all credits under this category as well as providing a green housekeeping plan.

And here are a few photos and some comments from my personal experience of living in a high performance building:

The first picture shows a heat recovery ventilator. It’s basically a heat exchanger: the warm, but stale air that is being removed from the indoor air warms up the cold fresh air. A great way of making use of “waste energy”. Fresh air intake is a necessary feature in well insulated building, so using a heat exchanger in chilly Canada to warm up the outside air is a smart design feature and can save a substantial amount of energy.


The stair detail is not just beautiful, but makes sense from a cradle-to-cradle perspective. The railing is made from solid wood, metal and glass. The parts can easily be separated at the end of its useful life and put into the appropriate recycling streams or get reused.

The carpet is made from recycled wool. Regular carpet can off-gas chemicals that might be harmful to your health. For my dream house, I’d say: ditch the carpet altogether: I prefer wood or similar flooring that can easily be kept clean with a broom, warm water and soap. Area rugs can provide some softer flooring where needed.

Oh – one of my favourites: the heated floor! Sooo awesome, especially on a freezing winter evening, which are plentiful in Calgary: it makes Savasana at the end of my yoga practice a so much more soothing experience! The flooring is not a hardwood floor what it appears to be, but Bamboo, which is a grass. It grows like weed in Asia, and is quite hipp in the green building industry. I am not totally sold on it: is it really more environmentally friendly to ship bamboo across the ocean, which is glued together with adhesives that potentially contain toxins? That’s where life cycle assessments would come in handy. Is it really better than local hardwood floor from well managed forests? But that’s another blog post…

Another highlight that I haven’t seen before, but makes total sense: Rain water collected on the roof flushes the toilets. Great feature.  Isn’t it crazy that standard practice is to use drinking water to flush toilets? I think this feature makes a big impact, without reducing our quality of life standards. Dual Flush is also non-questionable: something every household should have.

The reminder next to the toilet bowl: “Do Not Drink” Thanks, but no worries – I usually don’t drink out of the toilet either :)!

No , this is not the full moon. It’s a light tube, like a skylight it provides daylight in the hallway upstairs. Using as much daylight as possible is a great way of lighting our homes: it’s free during the day. And the “good” thing about Calgary’s night lighting (which could be called wasteful by some or providing a feeling of safety by others). Even at night I get some light in the hallway.

The counter in the bathroom is made from Terrazzo, which contains recycled glass. Super easy to clean, durable and it looks beautiful. Those Italianos have style!

LOVE the rectangular ceramic tiles in the shower!

The washer and dryer are Energy Star rated and a clothes rack is provided. Clothes racks are not just good for the planet, air drying clothes is more gentle than machine drying .and keeps my clothes in good condition for longer.

For more info on the Vento check out the CaGBC website here.  My personal rating: I like it a lot. Areas of improvements would be use of renewable energy source, such as solar or geothermal instead of natural gas. I would prefer wood / metal clad windows instead of vinyl windows. Oh,  and a shading system on the big west facing windows to avoid overheating on the long summer days, when the sun is hot but low near the horizon. But altogether: definitely two thumbs up.

Written by dolessharm

June 26, 2008 at 4:24 am

Mother Nature spoke to me…

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…she told me to be aware.  In everything we build and make,  it’s up to us to care.

She has loaned us this planet, so that we may be free,  to enjoy the showers, birds and trees, and this clean air we breathe.

“Tread softly” she whispered, “leave your footprints slight, so the future for your your children will be filled with joy and light.”

To this great advice I listened; and now in everything I do, I imagine, create, design and build with an outlook to renew. I leave nothing poison behind me, I am looking forward all the way to a better world tomorrow, far better than today.

By Bennett. As seen at the Canadian Green Building Council’s “Shifting into th Mainstream” Summit, Toronto, June 2008.

Written by dolessharm

June 22, 2008 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Confused about all the Greenwashing, that’s going on?

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You are not the only one. Green claims are in our face all the time, every company regardless how sustainable or unsustainable its current business practices has a green story to tell. It seems like in many cases there is more green marketing than sincere effort to look at the biggest environmental burden the corporation causes and commit to change.

Enviromedia Social Marketing created a website and rates ads on a Greenwashing Index: 1 marks a good ad. 5  marks a total greenwashing ad. The following ad received a rating of 1.8 so far:

Written by dolessharm

May 7, 2008 at 1:05 pm

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Commute by Bike

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I got a special reward today on my commute to work: I saw, what I believe was an adolescent bald eagle! Not quite dark with a white neck and head, but rather brown and overall freckled. The young eagle seemed little disturbed by being watched by humans on two wheels.

I also ran into Graham, a blogger, who expressed some bike envy, when he saw my Long Haul Trucker Surly, and discovered that we have a blogger friend in common. Small world!

Watching the eagle, enjoying the river path way, and connecting on the bike path aside, Forbes magazine says it’s simply unhealthy the way many of us commute every day. I am grateful that my commute is to 80% along the river path way, and only 20% along polluted roads with fast trucks – with mostly one person in the car, by the way.

My ideal commute would be a 25min walk or 10 min bike ride. This way I get my heart going, breath some fresh air,  have some time to mentally prepare myself from the transition from work to home life and vice versa, get some outside time, absorb some sunshine, rain or whatever the sky has to offer that day (in Calgary more likely snow for the most part of the year) and ideally pass a coffee place, a grocery store with nutritious food and run into some friends. Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe I need to move back to small-town St.Poelten?

Written by dolessharm

May 7, 2008 at 3:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Not just for LOHAS

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In case you were wondering: LOHAS stands for Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. Lohasians are the green capitalists. You know organic chocolate eating eco-tourists, who shampoo their hair with  Aveda products, read Ode magazine, and who drive a Prius. It’s not just about them.

Like the Guardian states: the climate change movement must be inclusive: it must be accessible to everyone, not just western middle-class Lohasians. It must include the poor, the stressed, the unaware. Only then can it be successful.

Written by dolessharm

April 29, 2008 at 3:56 am

Posted in Environmental Movement

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First Post on “do less harm”

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Hello, my name is Anna and I am here to start a blog about the environment. Why? Because I think about it a lot anyways. I am here to share my thoughts and to connect with… I don’t know… whoever is out there in the blogosphere.

I feel that we have to re-think the way we live, because what we are currently doing is creating more harm than we think. Or, in other words, there is a lot of room for improvement. For example: we could be creative and spend our energy on innovation towards an energy source that truly does less harm. Like solar – the most renewable resource on this planet. After all, everything revolves around the sun! The “do less harm” principle also applies to social issues, the way we travel, consume, and eat.

I hope to find more clarity on how to green my own personal choices through reading other people’s blogs, your blogs, and through sorting through my own thoughts and putting them in the blogosphere. I am concerned about my own personal choices, but also interested in the bigger picture, in the dynamics of big groups of people, tribes, societies, because individual choices of just a few are not enough. We are all in this together. This is a global thing.

The environmental crisis can be overwhelming or depressing, but at the same time I see a huge opportunity for humanity to work on this “external issue”, that effects all of us together. Climate change or pollution, they don’t know any national borders. I am hopeful that this is an opportunity to to solve this issue together.

Oh, and one last point: I am an optimist. A realistic optimist, sometimes shocked and puzzled, how we currently run things, but still an optimist.

Written by dolessharm

April 29, 2008 at 3:27 am

Posted in blogging

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