Ellen Honigstock Architect PC launches the Toeprint Project

30 01 2009


Welcome to the Toeprint Project.

Toeprint definition: a very tiny footprint; a small part of your larger footprint.
Project definition: a temporary collective endeavor involving research and design, carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.

The Toeprint Project will be a year-long process meant to bridge the gap between the desire to make our homes and businesses more sustainable and actually having the tools and capability to do so.

Each week for 52 weeks, we will publish a different strategy aimed towards making buildings more efficient, durable, healthier for the occupants or otherwise more sustainable. We will interview experts and bring you relevant up-to-date information about pricing, the pros, cons and trade-offs inherent in various strategies and even offer discounts and giveaways whenever we can make it happen.

We chose the period of a year because while reducing energy, water and material consumption, it is very difficult to chart progress on a daily or weekly or even monthly basis. Stick with us and we will provide metrics for you to measure your progress throughout the Project.

Who are we and why are we doing this?

We are a small architectural firm based in Brooklyn in New York City. Our residential and commercial projects are generally on the small side and it seems like no matter how green we make them, the resulting improvements to the environment are barely noticeable. We know that reducing consumption of resources is not an easy process. It takes work and commitment and plenty of tools and expertise.

Over the past 18 months, we have published various findings that interest us at Brooklyn Green but our reach was limited. We want to share our knowledge in order to have a more significant impact on the environment.

We often give talks teaching people how to make their homes and lifestyles more sustainable and the one response we almost always get is an appreciative thank you for “putting all that information in one place”.

We’re firm believers in well-roundedness so the Toeprint Project will touch on areas of Energy Conservation, Water Conservation, Community, Food, Health, Indoor Air Quality, Material & Resource Consumption, Water Conservation and Zero Waste.

As you will see, the strategies will range from minor lifestyle changes to fairly complex infrastructural analyses. We hope to make all the strategies interesting and accessible to anyone without previous expertise in these areas so as to “spread the sustainability” and reduce each of our carbon footprints to a mere toeprint.

You can subscribe to the feed here. Join us!

Ellen Honigstock, RA, LEED AP
Ellen Honigstock Architect PC


Teen Green: Ice Skating Efficiently

8 12 2008

Winter’s coming, which means that uncountable New Yorkers will be putting on their skates and skating around in endless circles on the city’s many rinks. But when skating, people tend to forget one important factor about the rink: it takes a ridiculous amount of energy to keep them frozen. In fact, it is estimated that a typical small rink requires about $30,000 worth of electricity a month to operate. Not only is this expensive, but it readily contributes to Global Warming as well. The constant energy that is required to keep the rink frozen makes ice skating one of the most energy intensive forms of recreation there is out there.

The Natural History Museum is doing something about this. Opened to the public until February 28th, the “Polar Rink” is open for business. This is not any ordinary skating rink, though. It is made out of a recyclable synthetic surface (100% recyclable and non-toxic materials), still giving skaters the impression of skating on ice. This rink is more efficient because it requires no maintenance or refrigeration, the risk of melting is eliminated.

If you’re worried that this surface won’t give you the full ice skating experience, trust me, it really does feel like skating on ice; it’s almost surreal how realistic it is.

To get details on ticket pricing and business hours, go to the Polar Rink Website.

Want Cleaner Indoor Air? 37 reasons to take off your shoes at the door

28 08 2008

A short post today.

Click HERE to see 37(!) very good reasons to take your shoes off at home.

I never thought of #13 (yuck) or #25 before but I really do like the idea of taking off your shoes to set the psychological stage for entry into your home environment.

By the way, you can buy the cute little tag shown above here.

Now to find the shoe rack.


Indy House #8 – Toilet with a Lid sink?

25 07 2008

No, that’s not a photoshop wonder – it’s real- a sink in toilet lid from Gaiam. What better way to save space in a small bathroom than to install a 2-in-one fixture?

This toilet, which functions as a toilet AND a sink does just that (you could call it a triple function if you count the built-in soap dish). Yes, a little strange that you have to straddle the toilet to wash your hands but it enables you to use the water from the sink (called greywater) that would have been wasted down the drain but is perfectly acceptable for filling the tank to flush.

So what about using this for the Indy House, a very small (some would call it intimate) green home that we’re designing? This might be a good way to reduce the number of fixtures in the limited space and it’s a bargain at $89 bucks.

We were going to try to avoid all plumbing in this project and us a Composting Toilet but it might be useful to have a bar sink or slop sink in the house. This is a question for the Owner. We’ll let you know.

Let us know if you’ve had experience with this toilet – its a fairly new product, so we’d love to hear your experiences (and what guests coming to your home have thought!)

Check out previous Indy House posts.

What I’m doing for Earth Day – Making Yogurt!

22 04 2008

At 39 weeks pregnant, my Earth Day contribution is necessarily modest.

Solution I’m trying to come up with: Reduce the amount of non-NYC-recyclable plastics we use.

Now understand that we are great recyclers. My husband takes all the plastic bags, drycleaner bags and yogurt containers to the Park Slope Food Coop’s twice monthly plastic recycling event. However, it often takes us a while to organize a trip over there at the right moment so the pile of recyclables can grow to an alarming extent. We hide the bags in the basement but for some reason, the yogurt containers pile up on the kitchen countertop and it drives me crazy.

So now we are making our own yogurt to avoid having more plastic to recycle.

When I was in college, I had a friend whose parents were from France and I had homemade yogurt at their house for the first time and it was incredible. Ours is just as good. We have tried vanilla-flavored, coffee-flavored and plain and they’re all good. Plus the little 4-oz glass containers are too cute.

The unit cost about $24 at the Coop and uses about 13 watts of power per 32 oz batch (8- 4 oz. servings) and best of all…no plastic yogurt containers hanging around.

Good Green Fun – Sign up for Riverwired Newsletter

22 04 2008

Hi all, If you didn’t already realize, we also blog for Riverwired.com, a national website that provides great green information in a fun and friendly way. Go to Riverwired and sign up for the newsletter to have the featured green news delivered directly to your email box. This is how Riverwired describes itself:

RiverWired.com provides must-see, eco-friendly news, entertainment, and community to help people live just a little greener — and have a lot more fun.

We know it’s dawning on everyone that the time has come to change the way we live on the earth. Forget cutting carbs — it’s time to cut carbons.

But how? What really works and what doesn’t? Which steps should we take first? And how on earth can we rev ourselves up to make any change at all — because change is hard and seems to take so much energy (the rarest resource of all)?

At RiverWired, we don’t pretend to have all the answers. But we do have a gathering place for people to share their stories.

The RiverWired editorial team scours the world and the web for the best writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers, and filmmakers. Then we create and filter content into six easy-to-navigate categories, showcasing entertaining and engaging material in a practical, accessible format. All to help our audience live a little greener – and have a lot of fun.

Here’s what you’ll find:

  • RiverWired TV: The most popular source of original eco-oriented video on the Web, including award-winning mini-documentaries; celebrities doing the green thing, local heroes (people and businesses making a difference), people living off-the-grid.
  • RiverWired Original Blogs: We showcase characters who’ve found practical and intriguing ways to live greener now.
  • RiverWired Community: RiverWired offers best-of-breed user-created content tools within a positive, trustworthy, can-do environment.
  • RiverWired Moneysavers and Green Products: Our green-living tips and products, videos and blogs
  • RiverWired Entertainment: Original games and polls, quizzes, blogs and videos and articles all present fun and interesting tidbits and strategies for greener living.
  • RiverWired Recommends: Every day, we feature the best-of-the-web in green news, blogs, videos, and information available internationally.

And our content is organized in six easy-to-access departments so you can get what you want and need fast:

  • Business & Innovation (Investing, Corporate Culture, Sustainable Ideas, New Technology)
  • Design & Lifestyle (Art & Architecture, Home & Gardening, Style)
  • Food & Travel (Cooking. Dining Out, Farm to table, Eco Travel)
  • Moneysavers & Green Products (Clothes, Gadgets, Products & Ideas)
  • People & Media (Celebrities, Local Heroes, Pop Culture, Books & Music, TV & Internet)
  • Transportation & Energy (Bikes & Cars, Energy Innovations, Public Transportation, Climate & Nature)

Our experience with ReGreen

18 04 2008

Since its being launched in January, we’ve been referring to the ReGreen Program for Residential Remodeling for own internal questions about how to build in a more environmentally friendly way. We’ve also begun to reference the guide as part of our construction drawings to point contractors to (hopefully they’ll read the small print in our specs!). We’ll soon begin construction on one of our projects where we’ve referenced the guide, so we’re hoping it will act as a great resource throughout the construction process.

[You’ll see this image on page 2 of the kitchen renovation section] –

The colorfully illustrated guideline (yes, there are even photos) delineates a best-practices construction approach for homes, whether its a simple kitchen or bathroom renovation, outdoor patio creation, exterior addition, or a major gut renovation. The guidelines give a very real, hands-on account of the before and after, lessons learned, budget constraints (when are there not?) and even comments from owners about the real issues.

[This image is found on page 56, the outdoor living chapter]:

While there are no certifications granted by following this program, it gives designers, builders and homeowners a strong reference and alternative for building green in situations where a project does not qualify for certification systems such as LEED, Energy Star and Health House.

For the time being, this reference may be our answer to finding a green rating system for urban residential projects, where there is not yet a certification system that directly applies.

[ pg. 44]