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60 bag moss architect biodegradable packaging

“Packaging” is a sort of ho-hum word to describe the shell for treasured goods being shipped across the country, or halfway around the world. It’s also a poor descriptor for the seductive sheath that researchers pour gallons of time into and designers stay up nights agonizing over. We’ve definitely made consumer choices based on packaging alone, simply because said item looks better on our dresser.

But nearly always, the shelf life of the packaging is a lot shorter than the time it took to dream up. That’s a lot of Styrofoam/plastic/etc. in a lot of garbage cans.

This week’s edition is about genius alternatives to vessels that far outlast their cargo.

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If you scroll down a little (or click here) you’ll remember that a few weeks ago, we posted about Chicago’s coldest day in recorded history. And then, for fun, we sought out the world’s coldest recorded temperature (-129 F!). Not that Antarctica has any permanent residents or anything (it doesn’t) but wondering how people kept alive in the cold before Central Heating laid the foundation for the first of a series of posts we’re doing on ancient architectural techniques, and how some of them can inform a more sustainable future.

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Prone though Chicago is to crazy weather indecision, a March this sunny exceeded our expectations. Not that we didn’t already skip over a winter that was predicted to create a mass exodus from the Windy City this past season (we’re still here). We keep hearing about record-breaking temperatures all over the map, but we want superlatives this afternoon. So, what was the coldest Chicago winter day? And how did this one stack up?

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moss green architect beer in the snow

The refrigerator present in most Western kitchens today wasn’t invented all that long ago. Carl Van Linde developed the technology in the 1870’s, but his ammonia-based fridges still required separate motors, and inhaling the toxic gases within led to a few deaths—not ideal. The first freestanding, commercially available fridge hit shelves (well, floors) in 1913, and wasn’t really perfected until the 1930’s. Iceboxes and burying perishables in the ground preceed both models by thousands of years.

But the current model isn’t done evolving yet. Refrigerators still consume about a 6th of the energy used in the average American home. This week’s edition includes inspiring fridges that use little to no electricity, instead keeping food cold/preserved using methods from sand to biopolymers.

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Today marks the one year anniversary of the Lakeview Area Master Plan (LAMP) reveal. During the research phase of LAMP, the number one feature Lakeview residents expressed need for was more public space. One of our suggestions was to create the LowLine, sprucing up the currently dingy path below the Chicago Brown Line’s tracks with native plants and solar lamps to connect and beautify the neighborhood. More inside.

The web may not be climate change-combat’s poster child, but it may be its knight in shining armor. On the one hand we know that outlet usage has increased a lot since the internet and its buddies (smartphones, bluetooth keyboards, ipods) burst onto the scene; on the other, it has saved trees, and more to the point, whipped global communication into a frenzy the likes of which the pre-internet world never dreamed of. Even more to the point, sourcing and spreading data has become a whole lot easier. But the connotations of data, once a word reserved for Dexter’s Laboratory, have changed, too. The Internet has infused it with a new sense of community, accessibility, and at the very least, made it prettier. The idea that the web community and data interact with each other as that data is being accrued is revolutionary for anyone wishing to tread lighter on our planet.

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Eco Media Player SPIN moss green architect

Starting today, we’ll be posting things we like every friday. They’ll range from amazing dishes to jars of pickles to cleaning products to eye-catching graphics.  One thing you can be sure of is that they’ll all relate to our principal passions: food, beer/wine, and all things green, sustainable and design-y.

This week’s edition includes items that save energy, delay waste and provide us with yet another alternative use for corn.

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We have completed our passive house project in Lakeview, which consists of a 150 square foot addition to the second floor, bathroom and bedroom remodel, and overhaul of the west facade.  Over the last 100 years the existing house received several disjointed additions and subtractions.  Our clients, an extended family of five, had been sharing a way-too-small bathroom for the better part of a decade and needed an extra bedroom and more efficient space.  Instead of simply adding space over the existing one-story kitchen to accommodate the new third bedroom and bathroom, our solution incorporated a previous ‘appendage’ addition into the design scheme while also taking into account solar orientation and passive design strategies.  The design scheme intentionally demarcates from the existing faux-Victorian aesthetic to provide a more sustainable and relevant design methodology.  Photos and details inside. Read the rest of this entry »

With all the pressing problem our country faces, House Republicans have decided that energy efficiency just doesn’t make American sense.  Introduced by U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) who is, frighteningly, the the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Michael Burgess, (R-Texas), the BULB (Better Use of Light Bulbs) Act seeks to repeal the Bush-era Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  The 2007 act, contrary to the Texas dynamic duo’s belief as a “de facto ban on the incandescent light bulb that has its origins in Thomas Alva Edison’s laboratory”, merely requires new bulbs to use 25 to 30 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs starting in 2012, and 65 percent less energy by 2020.  There is no language in the original 2007 act that bans incandescent bulbs, even if it should have.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tax season is the perfect time to bring up some good news and excellent reasons to make sustainable upgrades to your residential properties.  Two related tax breaks, both products of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, are available to all property owners.  The first – generically named the Residential Energy Property Credit – is the more general tax break which covers 30% of the cost (up to $1,500) for certain heating and cooling systems and water heaters, along with their related installation costs.  Also covered are energy efficient windows, doors, insulation, and certain roofing materials – installation is not included for these items.  In most cases qualifying products will have to bear the Energy Star designation. Read the rest of this entry »

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