Eco Tip Monday-Composting

Why should you compost? There are lots of good reasons to compost. Save money, save resources, improve your soil and reduce your impact on the environment. Regardless of your reasons, composting is a win/win scenario. Good for you and good for the environment. Composting will reduce your garbage and in the end save you money. As a result less waste ends up in landfills.

Adding compost to your garden will not only fertilize, it actually feeds your soil with a diversity of nutrients and microorganisms that will improve plant growth. Chemical fertilizers on the other hand provide a quick burst of a limited number of nutrients that can wash away into our rivers and streams. Compost also increases soil stability, improves drainage and helps retain moisture.

Composting decreases emissions of greenhouse gases and will help sustain the environment for future generations.

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Eco Tip Monday-Transportation


Summer is here. It is a great time to think about using alternative modes of transportation. Whenever possible consider reducing your carbon footprint From driving. Everyone can do their part. Here are a few tips:


  • Alternatives to driving. When possible, walk or ride your bike in order to avoid carbon emissions completely. Carpooling and public transportation drastically reduce CO2 emissions by spreading them out over many riders.
  • Drive a fuel efficient vehicle. This is the most obvious way to reduce your carbon footprint from driving. All vehicles carry an estimated miles-per-gallon rating from the EPA. Even electric cars create carbon emissions because electricity comes from a mix of sources which usually involves the burning of some fossil fuels; however, their MPG equivalents (MPGe’s) are typically much higher than conventional and hybrid cars.
  • Driving style. Driving over the speed limit and excessive acceleration waste gas (reducing mileage by up to 33%) money, and result in an unnecessarily higher carbon footprint.
  • Tire inflation and other tuning. Properly inflated tires improve your gas mileage by up to 3%. It also helps to use the correct grade of motor oil, and to keep your engine tuned, because some maintenance fixes, like fixing faulty oxygen sensors, can increase fuel efficiency by up to 40%.

Misc. Combine errands to make fewer trips. Remove excess weight from your car. Use cruise control.

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Our Community-Keith Hammer


1. Where did you grow up, are you originally from Washington?

I was born in Seattle, but I was raised on Bainbridge Island.

2. How did you initially get involved sustainable development, what inspired you to start building energy efficient green homes?

I worked for one of the founding members of the original Built Green program, which was in Denver, Colorado. David Gertz of Sunshine Master Builders in Denver, CO. Inspired me to “build right.” It really has been the only way I know how to build.

 3. What do you think has been the greatest attribute to Dwell’s success in the market place?

I think it’s the great designs and the energy efficiency of our homes. When building energy efficient homes its is very easy to quantify and show financial savings to the consumer. Plus it’s the right way to build!

 4. What are some of the upcoming Dwell projects you are most excited about?

I’m very excited about the upcoming community in Ballard. With so many cookie cutter town homes and some negative press in the neighborhood; I am anxious to showcase our product in this area of town! Plus, I live a stones throw from the project.

 5. What is your favorite neighborhood in the Seattle area, and what are some of your favorite places to hangout there?

Ballard; I love all the micro, micro breweries. You might find me at Rubin’s Brews are Chucks Hop Shop, or strolling the Ballard Farmers market with the kids. You can also find me racing sailboats out of Shilshole.

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Eco Tip Monday-Reducing Waste


Eliminating waste is one thing you can do to make a difference. In the late 1800s, the average American family generated a grocery bag’s worth of trash per year. That refers to material that absolutely could not be reused again in any way. Presently, the average American individual generates nearly five pounds of trash per day! To truly reduce waste, you have to make changes across nearly every part of your life, looking for excess and either changing what you use or how you use something, or both.

Good areas to start reducing waste:

  • Packing – so much of what we buy and consume comes with excessive and wasteful packaging. Switch to buying in bulk, but also be sure to try and switch away from items that use unneeded and non-recyclable packing and wrapping. This applies to household products, food, clothing you buy and much more.
  • Use a reusable shopping bag, many areas have banned plastic shopping bags, which is a great step in the right direction. However many cities have yet to implement a bag, and paper bags still cause waste; try switching to reusable shopping bag to implement the first two rules of reduce, reuse, and recycle.
  • Single use plastics have had a huge impact on the amount of waste Americans use, and also don’t breakdown. Try using an aluminum, stainless steel, or glass water bottle instead, not only will you be helping reduce waste, but you will save money.
  • Gift-giving – Use recycled materials to do gift-wrapping, try using cloth wrapping that can be used again, or give gifts just marked with a cute bow or tag.
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Eco Tip Monday-Cork Flooring


Consider cork for your next flooring project. Traditional flooring products are made of non-renewable resources, slowly regenerating resources or man-made, sometimes caustic, ingredients. The majority of residential and commercial flooring today consist of:

  • carpeting
  • cement
  • tile
  • hardwood
  • laminate

Sustainability: unlike harvesting wood products, the collection of cork is done without destroying a single tree. Taken from the bark of a cork oak tree, cork can be collected from an individual tree multiple times throughout the tree’s life. Harvesting can occur after a sapling reaches 25 to 30 years of age. Or any time after the trunk reaches a circumference or roughly 70cm. Cork trees are slow growing and can live upwards of 170 to 250 years. Since the harvesting occurs every 9 to 12 years, each tree can be harvested up to 16 times in its life. Cork can also be used for siding. Cork has been used in Europe for many years as siding and flooring.

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Eco Tip Monday-Rain Barrels


Consider using a rain barrel to water your yard and garden. Catch those spring summer showers with a Rain Barrel and water your garden the natural yard care way.

Rain Barrels are available for purchase from the Seattle Conservation Corps, Parks and Recreation Department for approximately $75.00 each.

A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from rooftops to use later for watering plants and gardens. Water collected in a rain barrel would normally pour off your roof directly or flow through roof gutter downspouts and become storm water runoff.

Depending on your yard, this runoff can travel onto paved surfaces and eventually into a storm drain. Rain barrels conserve water and help lower costs (a rain barrel can save approximately 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months).

Rain barrels reduce water pollution by reducing storm water runoff, which can contain pollutants like sediment, oil, grease, bacteria and nutrients.

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Our Community-Abbey Maschmedt


Are you originally from the Northwest, where did you grow up?

I was born in Boston, and moved out West when I was five. We spent several years in Los Angeles before we made our way to Seattle. Our plan was to either move to Santa Cruz or Seattle; when our car broke down in Santa Cruz my Mom figured it was an omen and we continued driving to Seattle. I spent my middle school years at what is now known as the African American Museum, formerly Summit K-12, then Garfield High School, and then The Evergreen State College. Having been in the South End of Seattle for most of my formative years, I truly feel like I am a native.

How would you explain what your role at Dwell Development is?

My role at Dwell Development is working directly with our buyers in selecting their home finishes. I also spend some of my time procuring new materials for use in our future projects. I am hands on with scheduling, working with our Superintendents, designing interiors, lighting & plumbing selections and troubleshooting problems that arise on a day to day basis.  The most fun part of my job is the “move the bus” moment when our new homeowners walk into their home for the very first time.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about Passivhaus, but also Net Zero Houses, what is the difference between the two?

Passivhaus homes and Net-Zero-Energy homes have a lot in common. Both types of buildings aim to reduce the amount of energy used for space heating or cooling by designing envelopes with a low rate of air leakage, thick insulation, and high-performance windows. While Passivhaus designers are content with achieving a very low energy budget, Net-Zero-Energy home designers add frosting on the cake by including the ability to produce enough site-generated electricity to balance the home’s annual energy use.

What new projects are on the horizon that has the Dwell team fired up?

My first love is all things repurposed and recycled. I am crazy about using materials with the patina of age. Our next home in Columbia City will be a perfect marriage of old and new. The home will feature modern architecture with reclaimed materials. We are calling it a reclaimed modern. We have also expanded into some new neighborhoods. We are completing two homes in the Greenlake area, we have broken ground on our second home in Kirkland and will begin three new homes in Ballard later this year.

 What is your favorite Seattle neighborhood to hangout in, what are some of you favorite hangouts there?

I live and raise my family in Columbia City, so needless to say it is my favorite Seattle neighborhood. On at least one night a week my family and I like to stroll down to the center of Columbia City and grab a bite to eat at Geraldine’s, a baguette from the Columbia City Bakery for later and a scoop of ice cream from Full Tilt. We also love to catch a game at Rookie’s. The perfect spot for World Cup viewing!

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Eco Tip Monday-Eating Green


With the reopening of the Columbia City Farmers Market in Seattle, it is once again time to consider Eating Green Superfoods for spring & summer.

One of the best ways to eat green is to buy more local foods, particularly, healthier in-season fruits and vegetables at your local farmers’ market. Some great nutrient-packed superfoods in season for spring and summer include: asparagus, spinach, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, lettuce, apples, tomatoes, cherries and potatoes to name a few. There are also local purveyors of wine, cheese, pasta, ice cream, baked goods, salmon, eggs and soup. Everything you need to prepare a locally resourced meal can be found in one stop.

The Columbia City Farmers Market is located at South Edmunds Street between 37th Ave S and the alley at 36th (just off of Rainier Ave S in the heart of Columbia City). There is street parking in the vicinity, or shoppers can park for up to two hours in the pay lot next to the market.

The market takes place on Wednesdays, 3 pm – 7 pm, May 7 – October 15

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Eco Tip Monday-Environmentally Conscious Countertops



Consider using environmentally conscious countertops for your next remodeling or new construction project. There are many options on the market. We use NovuStone Countertops made in the Sodo neighborhood of Seattle. NovuStone is a hand crafted material which utilizes post-consumer recycled content such as bottle glass, windows and mirrors; as well as post-industrial recycled content and natural aggregates to create lasting, durable, sustainable surfaces.


Up to 80% of our surfaces are recycled (and subsequently sourced as our raw materials) from within 35 miles of our production facility in the Historic Rainier Brewery in Seattle, Washington. These ingredients are bound together with our proprietary, self-curing, low carbon cement that is naturally stain, heat, and UV resistant. In combination, our products represent the best, lowest impact, most sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative in the stone surface industry.


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Our Community-Marja Preston



For this week’s installment of Our Community we spoke with Marja Preston from Blue Frog Solar. We asked Marja about what inspired her to get into solar, why it’s the right time to add solar to your home, and her favorite neighborhood in Seattle

1.    Tell us a little bit about yourself, are you originally from Washington?

I grew up in Corvallis, a small university town in Oregon, though I also lived in Europe and Central Africa as I was growing up. Our family was green before green was cool – we grew our own food, we put sweaters on when it got chilly instead of turning up the heat, and we rode our bikes everywhere.  We did these things not just because they conserved resources, but because they saved money. My parents made sure we spent a lot of time in the outdoors, skiing, sailing, climbing, hiking and learning to appreciate beautiful natural places. They instilled in me a sense of wonder for the incredible places on our planet, and a desire to preserve those places so my children can experience them as I did.

2.    How did you get into the solar industry, what inspired working in that field?

I’ve spent the last four years on a development team creating a net-zero energy residential development. After extensive research we found that solar was the best option to provide all the renewable energy needed for our project. We partnered with BlueFrog Solar, iTek energy, and A&R Installers to create a solar package that would be easy for home buyers to choose. We also partnered with a local credit union, Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union, so our buyers could access zero-down financing for their solar arrays. We essentially eliminated all the barriers, financial and otherwise, to make it easy for our home buyers to add solar to their homes.

We had incredible success with this program, with almost 100% participation. I am now applying what I learned through that experience to create BlueFrog’s Simple Solar program, helping other developers and homebuilders to offer solar to their customers.

3.    How did the Bluefrog Solar and Dwell Development partnership come about? When did you start working together?

We’ve known Dwell Development for some time, sharing information and ideas on how to build and market energy efficient homes. Dwell’s homes are all built solar-ready in anticipation of someday adding solar panels on each roof. We’ve talked with Dwell for a couple years about helping them add solar as an option to their homes when the time and the cost was right. That time is now, as the cost of solar equipment has come down almost 60% over the last two years. The cost of the system, including equipment and installation is now at a point where the federal and state incentives essentially pay for the system over 5-6 years. With the zero-down financing from PSCCU and the incentives that cover the loan payments until the system is paid off, there is really no reason not to add solar now.

4.    You’ve recently had some pretty big success, including a one hundred percent buy in at a new eco friendly community on Bainbridge Island. Tell us a little bit about that project.

The Grow Community project on Bainbridge Island is a One Planet community, one of seven communities in the world endorsed to a very high standard. To meet the One Planet principles, the community of 131 homes is designed to reduce the carbon footprint of its residents to a level that can be sustained by our one planet (the typical American lifestyle requires 5 planet’s worth of resources). The principles of the One Planet program extend beyond just the built environment to include reducing carbon from transportation and food. The Grow Community includes net-zero energy houses and apartments, powered entirely by solar, community gardens outside every front door, and a car share program – also powered by solar.

The response to the community was unprecedented – 23 homes were sold before they were ever listed on the MLS. There is a wait list for the apartments and a long list of interested buyers for the next two phases. It is clear that buyers are interested in living sustainably, especially if we can make it easy, attractive and affordable.

5.    Last but not least what is your favorite neighborhood in Seattle right now, where do you like to hangout and grab a drink?

Bainbridge of course! The island is not often thought of as a neighborhood in Seattle, but it is, really. Many people live here and commute into Seattle. It has a wonderful small town feel and the best commute on the planet! Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Bainbridge Island Art Museum bistro. It is the perfect lunch spot (the soups and the salads are incredible), a great meeting spot and a good excuse to wander around the museum. Did I mention the best part – entrance to the art museum is free to everyone so you can feel free to wander for a short while and come back any time. The museum is powered by iTek solar panels too.

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