Grainger’s New Data Center First LEED Certified Center

Lake Forest, Ill.-based Grainger, the broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating systems, recently announced that its new data center located in Lake Forest, “…is certified as the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] facility of this type,” as stated in a recent Grainger press release.

The new data cenGraingerter features an advanced cooling system where the energy used for cooling the facility is controlled by closely monitoring the air flow using outside air to cool the facility. Due to this feature, Grainger expects the new facility to consume up to 50 percent less energy for cooling compared to similar data centers.

According to the press release, “Data centers usually run nonstop, which means these facilities can consume up to 200 times more electricity than typical office spaces. Most of this energy is used to cool the building as temperatures from IT equipment housed in a data center can reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This Grainger data center’s air cooling design is anticipated to have a best-in-class PUE rating of 1.2 at full capacity; the industry average is 2.0.”

“Our goal is always to build the most sustainable facility possible,” said Gail Edgar, vice president of Grainger Real Estate and Facilities Services. “One of the most important components of the project was to realize significant energy savings by maintaining a low Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which measures the energy used beyond the IT load.”

According to Grainger’s Web site, the company is committed to building more buildings up to LEED standards. Grainger became the first industrial distributor to have a LEED-certified facility in 2008. Presently, the company operates 16 LEED-certified buildings in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and construction is underway for its newest facility in Toronto.

The Web site states, “By sharing best practices across facilities, almost all Grainger buildings have adapted some components of LEED certification requirements in areas such as recycling, waste disposal, lighting and cleaning. For example, the company has retrofitted 168 facilities in Canada and the United States with energy efficient lighting, decreasing annual energy consumption by an average of 15 percent per facility.”

The United States Green Building Council’s LEED program “… is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.”

Green Alternatives For Autumn Yard Work

September already! It seems as though we were just peeling off our parkas for the warm summer sun and now we’re digging through our closets searching for those hoodies, jeans and other fall clothes we were so eager to get rid of back in the spring.

For some of us fall also means preparing our yards for the nasty, and sometimes just plain brutal winters, which we leavesexperienced last winter in many parts of the U.S. including the Midwest. But, gardening nowadays means a lot of noise and pollution.In fact, according to an article posted on EarthShare’s Web site, “…one gas-powered leaf blower can emit as much pollution as 80 cars!”  What can modern gardeners do to adequately prepare their gardens for the winter while treating the Earth better?

The number one tip is to choose hand-powered tools over gas-powered tools. Sure, it may take you longer and it may be a bit more strenuous, but think of it as a built-in workout.  Some suggestions include:

  • Choose rakes over leafblowers. Rakes are just as effective. If you really need a leafblower for a difficult spot to reach, choose an electric leafblower, which are quieter, more energy-efficient and do just as good of a job than a gas-powered leafblower.
  • Try electric trimmers instead of energy-intensive garden trimmers.
  • Most lawns are small enough for hand lawn mowers instead of power mowers. If you decide you need a power mower, conduct some research on electric mowers, which make less noise and have less environmental impact.
  • Hire the neighborhood kids to help! Don’t have the time to take care of your lawn or garden?! Hire the neighborhood kids – it’s more affordable and ecological – plus it teaches the kids responsibility.
  • Compost as much as possible. Spread a thin layer of screened compost about a quarter of an inch to a half of an inch thick on the top of your lawn.
  • Final mowing – for the final mow of the season, cut the grass a little shorter than usual to prevent matted grass and snow mold.
  • When fertilizing your lawn try organic alternatives. Start by leaving the grass clippings on your lawn. Plant clover, which is rich in nitrogen. And then you can also leave compost on your lawn once a year.

These are just a few alternatives to prepare your lawn and garden during the fall for the winter months. These gardening tips have been around a lot longer than chemicals and gas-powered machines and work just as well, or even better. Many times, these alternatives may also be less expensive as well.

Have Fun in the Sun….And Learn Something Too With Sierra Club Group Outings

The summer and fall months are perfect for meeting new people while exploring the great outdoors and learning about the preservation of the environment and the Sierra Club provides all of this.

“Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet” is the Sierra Club’s motto and members and nonmembers can explore the outdoors with the Club’s many outings. There are three parts to the Club’s outings: local, national and international. Another outings offshoot are the Inner City Outings in which the Sierra Club visits urban areas giving these residents the opForested dunes hikeportunity to explore the outdoors – many urban residents never have the chance to visit rural areas. The Sierra Club Northwest Cook County Group, which serves Park Ridge to the Cook County section of Barrington and south to Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village offers a variety of outings for all skill levels – from easy to more strenuous hikes to canoe trips to cross country skiing during the winter.

Rick Szafarz, Outings Chair of the Northwest Chapter explains, “When people participate in these outings they generally have an overall love to get outdoors and explore. The Sierra Club’s outings range from hiking to camping, biking, backpacking and paddling and many other activities. We usually offer between a dozen and two dozen outings per year.”

For more information about outings, including pricing information (most outings are only $3) check out both the Northwest Chapter’s and the Illinois Sierra Club’s pages. You don’t need to be a member of the Sierra Club to attend the outings and, even if you live in the Northwest Cook County region you can still attend outings throughout the state or the country as well.

Some upcoming outings presented by various groups throughout the state include the Wilderness Act Celebration at Lusk Creek (Shawnee National Forest) on Saturday, August 9; Cycling the Oak Savannah and Prairie on Sunday, August 10; Adopt a Trail Work Day – Illinois Prairie Path in Glen Ellyn on Saturday, August 23; Sand State Forest Exploratory Backpack on Sunday, September 7 and South Kettle Moraine Beginner’s Backpack Friday, September 19-Sunday, September 21.

And, if you have more of an interest in the environment and conservation and would like to be surrounded by other like-minded individuals, the Northwest Cook County Group has monthly program meetings the second Thursday of every month at 7:30 pm with a time to socialize beforehand at 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served. Currently the meetings are held at the Spring Valley Nature Center, 111 E. Schaumburg Rd. in Schaumburg. Meetings are free and open to the public. Be sure to check the Group’s Web site for the meeting’s topic.

Climate Change…It’s Us: Part I

I recently attended Climate Change: Connections for Action at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Palatine, Ill. and was pleasantly surprised by how many people showed up — it was great seeing other like-minded individuals. It’s nice to know I’m not the only liberal, tree-hugging liberal in the conservative Northwest Suburbs of Chicago!

Dan Hunthsha, Climate Reality Leader at The Climate Reality Project kicked off the conference with an eye-opening, but a bit worrisome presentation about climate change beginning the conference stating, “Climate change is real — it’s definately us, but there is hope.”

The one statistic that really stood out for me is that five percent of all carbon comes from lawn mowers! I was stunned by that statistic.

Hunthsha shared scientific data clearly proving that we are the culprits of Global Warming – it’s no longer something that we can shy away from – especially after the worst winter the United States has faced in over 30 years. Those of us who live in the hardest hit areas of the country affected by this winter have experienced Climate Change

According to Climate Reality, “Our planet is heating up, and carbon pollution is to blame. Ninety million tons of carbon pollution enters our atmosphere every day. Nine of the ten hottest years on record were in the past twelve years.”

Evidence of Climate Change can be seen over the entire world – from Superstorm Sandy to extreme pollution in China to extreme rain and flooding this winter throughout Europe and, in 2013 the hottest summer on record in Australia. In fact it was so hot in Australia that meterologists had to add a new color to the weather map defining the extreme temperatures.

After the introductory presentation, the conference got local with representatives from various regional and state green organizations including the chapter of a national location. I will discuss this panel discussion and more of the day’s activities in part two of this blog.

But, I leave you with this question…What is your impact on the Earth? And…what can you do to lessen this impact?


Some Good Green News For Illinois

Illinois is not usually known for “being green” – Chicago’s towering skyscrapers and congested traffic emitting pollution is usually the first image that comes to mind when people think of Illinois. But, Chicago has made many efforts toward helping out Mother Earth, starting with former Mayor Richard J. Daley and continuing with present Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But, for those of use who are native Illinoisans, there is much more to the state than just Chicago – beautiful Lake County to the north of the city and to Southern Illinois with its rolling hills and grand green pastures.

DePaul University's Theatre Building.

DePaul University’s Theatre Building.

Illinois garnered the number one slot with 171 projects at 24.5 million square feet in 2013. Some of the LEED buildings of note include Powell Elementary School, the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the DePaul Theatre School, which was recently awarded LEED Gold certification.

According to a recent USGBC article, “The list of the Top 10 States for LEED is a continuing indicator of the widespread recognition of our national imperative to create healthier, high-performing buildings that are better for the environment as well as the people who use them every day,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

Also noted in the USGBC article, Governor Quinn stated, “Both the public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in the 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment…Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader.”



Chicago Businesses Go Green – Part II

Recently, the Delta Institute announced that it had achieved LEED platinum certification, which, considering the Institute’s mission, makes perfect sense.

According to the Delta Institute’s Web site it [Delta Institute] “…works in partnership with business, government and communities in the Great Lakes region to create and implement innovative, market-driven solutions that build environmental resilience, economic vitality and healthy communities.

On SeptemberHome 4 it was announced that the Delta Institute (located in the historic Jeweler’s Building at 35 Wacker Drive in the heart of Chicago’s Loop) achieved US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification — making it one of only nine Chicago buildings with LEED platinum distinction.

According to a September 4 Delta Institute press release some of the enhancements made for LEED certification  include:

  • Water use reduction – Delta reduced its water use by 40 percent via the installation of low-flow kitchen fixtures and the collaboration with building maintenance to replace all bathroom fixtures for the floor with low-flow fixtures
  • Energy use reduction -Delta reduced its energy use by 30 percent with the installation of LED lighting and high-efficiency T-5 fluorescent lights with daylight photo sensors
  • Materials recycling – Delta recycled 98 percent the debris generated from the office build-out and used paints, sealants, furniture, and flooring composed of low volatile organic emitting materials.


Chicago Businesses Go Green – Part I

An increasing amount of businesses are going green, especially here in the Chicago area. Why should businesses go green? It just makes sense – if big businesses can make the effort then us as citizens can make the effort. It shows us that businesses have a heart too and care about their carbon footprint. Recently, two buildings who house green businesses received LEED Platinum Certification.

In May 2013 the country’s largest sustainable business community, Chicago’s Green Exchange, was awarded LEED platinum status. The Green Exchange houses a variety of businesses all which have included sustainability in their mission – from GreenChoice Bank to the Institute for Workforce Education, a division of Augustana University; Climate Cycle, which educates children about the environment and climate change to Ale Syndicate, a local brewery unique to Chicago.

Located at 2545 W. Diversey in Chicago,”The building features a large open foyer, an 8,000 square foot organic sky garden with an on-site restaurant in the works, and beautiful open event space with an abundance of natural sunlight, all of which are available to tenants and the public alike for special events. Other features include a state-of-the-art green roof, an organic garden, a chicken coop, a 41,329 gallon rain cistern to allow water to be captured and reused, energy efficient windows, an energy efficient escalator, and much more, ” which was noted in a May 24, 2013 Chicago Tribune article.

Set in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood, the Green Exchange was developed by Baum Developers, who, according to the Web site, are “…passionate about development projects in sprouting neighborhoods and is continually acclaimed for the preservation of historic and architecturally significant landmarks.”

The Green Building Exchange was the home of the Vassar Swiss Underwear Company and is also the recipient of the 2013 Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project for turning this historic building into a successful business center.

O’Hare Airport Welcomes New Guests – Goats

In keeping with its sustainability initiatives, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has recently welcomed 25 unusual guests – a herd of goats. This two-year Vegetation Management Services Contract was the brainchild of Central Commissary Holdings, LLC, a Chicago-based restaurant group.

According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, “Up to 120 acres of land on four sites have been identified for grazing on O’Hare property. All the sites are located in areas away from or separated from the airfield by security fencing.The sites include hilly areas along creeks or streams and roadway right-of ways that are overcrowded with dense scrub vegetation that’s difficult to maintain with traditional landscaping equipment.”

Environmental benefits include:

  • provide an alternative to toxic herbicides, keeping beneficial soil organisms alive and    preventing runoff
  • reduce lawnmower, trimmer and weed-eater usage, which emit carbon dioxide and other pollutants
  • naturally recycles nutrients ad fertilizer
  • reduces the use of heavy equipment, minimizing soil erosion

For more information about O’Hare’s sustainability efforts visit:

Chemical-free for Spring Part I

Spring is right around the corner…hopefully. Here in the Chicago area it seems like winter will never release it’s stronghold it’s had upon the area the past month! In November, December and even the first half of January, it seemed more like spring or autumn, but then the “bottom dropped out” in mid-January with frigid, single digit temperatures and then inches upon inches of snowstorms in the month of February and below normal temps in March — who knows what April holds in store for us. So, no wonder we’re ready for spring – we’ve had enough!

For many, images of a green lawn, flowers and lots of homegrown fruits and vegetables means springtime! But, can you have a green thumb and still be good to the Earth and not use all of those nasty pesticides and other chemicals you see front and center in the stores from spring through autumn?

First, the lawn. Everyone wants that perfect, bright green lawn, but you don’t need to douse it with gallons of water and loads of harmful chemicals to have a beautiful lawn. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), testing and treating the soil with natural products is the first step toward natural lawn care.

The NRDC further explains, “To aid your organic conversion, many university cooperative extension offices will test your soil for organic matter, nutrients and pH for a small fee. Once you know what’s in your soil, you can begin to bring it back to life…liquid compost…can help restore beneficial microbial life.”

Other steps the NRDC advises:

  1. Go native – use grasses suitable for your climate
  2. “Read the weeds” – weeds can serve as “messengers” to tell you what’s wrong with your soil, but not all weeds are bad
  3. Water only when needed, when the grass is wilting – an idea to cut down on water consumption is to use rain barrels

To read this article in full visit

A Bit Off Topic…

I’m going to get a bit off topic for this posting – I apologize – but, I must plug myself, no one else will!

LRJ Writing & Editing Services…

I’m still continuing to look for new freelance clients – or part-time or full-time writing or editing opportunities, especially covering such topics as the environment, animals or even health care (have more than six years’ experience working for nonprofit health care associations). So, in order to continue broadening my horizons, I have established a brand new Web site, which I will be updating with new content, especially writing samples, once in a while. Please check out my site at And, I have also established a Facebook page for my business, which can be found at — I’d be honored if you liked my Facebook page. Also, please feel free to follow me on Twitter @LaraRJ. I’m still getting the hang of all of this social media, but I’d be honored if you joined me for the ride and please keep me in mind for any written communications needs – thank you.

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