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Red is Green — Tests Show Environmental Qualities of Redwood

Green, green, green. The green building message is everywhere, and it is an important message. Everyone should be building green. But how should “green” really be measured?

The emerging answer appears to be that building with sustainable, environmentally responsible materials is the one, true “green” way to build. And one of the best materials for deck or fence building happens to be redwood, which is not only beautiful and durable, but is a material that can actually reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

The California Redwood Association recently commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to better understand and compare redwood to other materials, such as plastic composite decking. A Life Cycle Assessment  is a scientific technique commonly used to quantify the environmental footprint of producing and consuming products we use in our everyday life.

The results of the LCA were conclusive, showing that considerable differences exist between redwood and alternative decking products such as plastics and plastic composites. In fact, in terms of global warming potential, plastic-based decking materials are contributors, while growing, harvesting and using redwood for decks do not contribute to global warming.

Indeed, using redwood is a great way to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While plastics and composites rely on chemical resins and fossil fuels that release carbon and increase emissions, redwood trees take carbon out of the air and store it in wood fiber.

As they grow, redwood trees will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, that carbon gets stored in wood fibers in the tree’s roots, trunk and branches and the oxygen is released back to the air. The faster a tree grows then, the more photosynthesis occurs and the more carbon is removed from the atmosphere. Since redwood is a fast-growing species, managed redwood forests excel at removing carbon from the atmosphere.

When such redwood trees are harvested, that carbon they captured continues to be stored in the decking, fencing and other wood products they become. In fact, wood is about half carbon by weight and so a redwood deck can actually store a half-ton of carbon. As the managed redwood forests regenerate, more carbon is removed from the air by the newly planted trees, which continues an ongoing cycle of carbon removal and storage.

Moreover, redwood is also recyclable and cleaner to produce than composites or plastics. The trees are grown and harvested in accordance with the highest environmental standards in the world as the they tap the sun for energy while soaking in California’s famed North Coast fog. In fact, roughly 90 percent of all product-producing redwood forests are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The next time you wonder about what green building products to use in deck or fence building, remember that red is green-redwood, that is.




Simple Steps to More Environmentally Friendly Deck Protection

Spring is here. And, with mild temperatures, comes the chance to assess the damage inflicted on your deck and porches by winter snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Your old finish may be worn leaving the wood unprotected and open to rotting and splitting. The ultimate test is to apply a few drops of water to the wood. If it beads, your wood should be well protected for another season, but if it soaks into the wood, it’s time for restoration.

For many years, staining wood meant working with toxic solvents and harmful fumes. But, to meet growing demand for more ‘green’ alternatives, environmentally friendly wood stains have become more prominent on the store shelves.

“We now see eco-friendly wood stains on the market that can match or outperform more toxic, film coatings on beauty, longevity and overall performance,” according to Rob Mueller, Past President of the Paint & Decorating Retailers Association (PDRA). “While many stains simply coat the wood, these high-performing, high-quality eco-friendly stains actually penetrate it for protection from within.”

For a ‘green’ deck that you can expect to last, here are some essential staining tips:

Select a water-borne stain that penetrates wood

Traditionally, wood stains used oil-based solvents to simply coat the wood. For water repellency, these oil-based solvents often contain paraffins, which quickly break down with exposure to sun light and heat.

The move to water-based stains combines the benefits of both oil and water-based coatings, using water as the vehicle to get oil penetration deep into the wood for deep down protection.

An added benefit of ‘water-borne’ alkyd wood stains is that they significantly reduce the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to smog or ozone depletion. “Water-borne stains perform like a solvent-based formula but provide the inherent advantages of water, such as the ability to allow the wood to breathe and the stain to bond with the wood,” says Sjoerd Bos, Vice President of Sansin. “These eco-stains don’t just sit on top ready to be chipped or scraped away and harm the environment.”

Clean and rinse the deck

Apply a biodegradable deck cleaner to remove any buildup or mold/mildew. Rinse the deck off with a hose (making sure plants surrounding the deck are covered), and let the deck dry thoroughly, making sure all signs of the previous coating are gone. For bare wood, use a minimum 3000 psi pressure washer with clean water.

Sanding is worth the time

This step may be time-consuming, but is worth the effort. An orbital sander with 60-80 grip paper should do the trick to create a level, consistently porous surface that will absorb more stain, resulting in a better wood finish.

Use less stain and apply with spray, then brush

Using less is always more for the environment. To reduce the need for multiple coats, wood stains now come in ‘one-coat’ formulations that penetrate deep into the wood to repel condensed water while allowing water vapor to escape.

“With water-borne wood stains, you can even protect wood with high moisture content with one coat, since the stain allows the wood to ‘breathe,’ preventing moisture from getting trapped inside the logs or wood and causing decay,” says Sjoerd Bos, Vice President of Sansin.

It’s best to apply the stain with a garden sprayer followed by ‘back-brushing.’

Maintenance pays off

How long should your deck stain last? That’s a common question, and it does depend on the stain and the preparation as described above, but two to five years is the average. To extend the life of your wood stain, apply a maintenance coat if the deck no longer repels water. Prior to the maintenance coat, best to use a deck cleaner or pressure washer.

Even for home owners with pressure-treated wood on their decks on porches, a good stain will inhibit the eventual fading, graying and cracking from outdoor exposure.

“No matter the wood or pre-treatment for your deck, it’s important to protect your investment. Now, homeowners can get high-quality protection with the added bonus of low VOC, low toxic wood stain products that can be applied in one coat,” says Sjoerd Bos, Vice President of Sansin.

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Reprinted with permission by Sansin Corporation. Copyright © 2010


Did the EPA Ban Woodstoves?

woodstovebanThe rumors are swirling in cyberspace. Folks on Facebook and Twitter are adamant that no more wood stoves can be sold after January 1st.  It must be true because I read it online 😉

Here at Green Trust, we are more interested in truth, than rumor, so I decided to get to the bottom of this. Forbes put out a misleading  headline (actually a lie):

EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Has Chilling Consequences For Many Rural People

The EPA has not banned your current woodstove, so no rural people will be “chilled” this winter. The EPA has not banned the sale of new wood stoves, so you can continue buying wood stoves. What the EPA has done is tighten up the allowable emissions from new wood stoves to under 7.5 grams per hour for non-catalytic wood heaters and 4.1 grams per hour for catalytic wood heaters. Local communities and or states may have tighter standards, or disallow wood stoves entirely. Wood stoves offered for sale in the state of Washington must meet a particulate emissions limit of 4.5 grams per hour for non catalytic wood stoves and 2.5 grams per hour for catalytic wood stoves.

There’s a big list of EPA stoves that meet these new standards. Fireplaces and Outdoor Wood Boilers are exempt from EPA regulations, but may be targeted by local regulations. You are also free to build your own woodstove. Again, local regulations and even your insurance company may have a say in this as well.

Stay warm, and burn safe!





Earthwood Building School

Earthwood Building SchoolEarthwood Building School is a small “mom and pop” business run by Rob and Jaki Roy. Rob, active in the alternative building field for 28 years, is the author of fifteen owner-building books and has conducted hundreds of workshops at Earthwood and throughout the United States. Together, Rob and Jaki have built Log End Cottage, Log End Cave, Earthwood, Mushwood and several other cordwood buildings. Jaki instructs at the hands-on sessions and keeps the school running smoothly from behind the scenes.
Through its course offerings, books, videos (and DVD), building plans and conferences, Earthwood strives to promote an integrated approach to home design, emphasizing energy efficiency, self-sufficiency and responsible stewardship of natural resources.


Clean, efficient, biomass fueled heat & hot water

Food, water, shelter…when you think of it, our needs for survival are quite simple. In America we have been so privileged that we take the basics for granted. No one goes hungry or thirsty in this land; and no one suffers from lack of shelter.

Or so we thought.

Many of our foundations have developed cracks in recent years. This reflects the realities of the world, or perhaps recognition that our sense of security was of equal parts fact and illusion. Considering these new realities, several conclusions have become very clear:

1. Our natural resources are limited.

2. We are part of a world economy that is no longer as strongly dominated by the U.S.

3. In all our decisions we must be sensitive to the impact on our environment.

The products of HS-TARM are called the “Warmth Machines” because they take wood and transform it into comfort and security that can make your home a warm sanctuary from the rest of the world. Most importantly, they accomplish this in a way that is considerate of your need to manage your money while being sensitive to what is best for our environment.

Tarm USA, Inc. is the North American Importer of the Baxi/HS-Tarm wood, multi-fuel, and wood pellet/corn stoker boilers. Tarm USA, Inc. is a family business owned by the Nichols family in Lyme, NH.

We have been deeply involved with wood central heating units since 1973. Our experience installing, servicing, and operating wood boilers enables us to provide you with expert technical support and knowledge to answer your questions about the installation and operation of HS-Tarm boilers.

Tarm USA, Inc. believes strongly in the benefits of using renewable, C02 neutral fuels in place of fossil fuels to heat our homes. We invite you to join us in being part of THE SOLUTION to help in the reduction of global warming.

HS-Tarm boilers burn wood, wood pellets, or corn (renewable resources) as efficiently and as cleanly as possible. Burning these fuels adds no net carbon to our ecosystems, thus making no contribution to global warming.

Burning wood, wood pellets, or corn in an HS-Tarm boiler gives you the ability to protect yourself from volatile fuel prices, and to reduce your reliance upon foreign oil. HS-Tarm boilers allow you the flexibility to choose a fuel depending upon it’s price and availability in your area.

We invite you to visit us here in Lyme, NH to see operating boilers and to get a first hand look at the efficient operation of these superbly designed and crafted units.

Tarm USA, Inc. stocks all boilers and parts in Lyme, NH. We have most all parts in stock for all HS-Tarm boilers sold in the U.S.A since 1975.


Wood Stove Safety

Our recent house fire has put my mind in a safety mode, and I wanted to share some info on safely heating your home with a woodstove. Maintain proper clearances, take care with chimney installation and cleaning, and especially dispose of ashes properly (use a metal can and dispose far away from building in a non combustible space).


Wood gasification

Over the years, we put together a collection of information on wood gasification. What is wood gasification? Our friends at All Power Labs have put together a nice tutorial, and have provided us with a gasifier to experiment with. More documentation on that project is upcoming.

Gasification is the use of heat to tranform solid biomass or other carbonaceous solids into a synthetic “natural gas like” flammable fuel. Through gasification, we can convert nearly any dry organic matter into a clean burning, carbon neutral fuel that can replace fossil fuel in most use cases. Whether starting with wood chips or walnut shells, construction debris or agricultural waste, gasification will transform common “waste” into a flexible gaseous fuel you can use to run your internal combustion engine, cooking stove, furnace or flamethrower.

Sound impossible?

Did you know that over one million vehicles in Europe ran onboard gasifiers during WWII to make fuel from wood and charcoal, as gasoline and diesel were rationed or otherwise unavailable? Long before there was biodiesel and ethanol, we actually succeeded in a large-scale, alternative fuels redeployment– and one which curiously used only cellulosic biomass, not the oil and sugar based biofuel sources which famously compete with food.

This redeployment was made possible by the gasification of waste biomass, using simple gasifiers about as complex as a traditional wood stove. These small-scale gasifiers are easily reproduced (and improved) today by DIY enthusiasts using simple hammer and wrench technology. The goal of this GEK is to show you how to do it, while upgrading the engineering and deployment solutions to something befitting the digital age.



[Green-Trust Off Grid] Trip to Woodhenge

We had a good time at Woodhenge this weekend. Jim, Al and friends brought back Al’s yurt which we unloaded. Site prep for reconstruction will start shortly. I delivered my old AIR 303 which Jim is reconstructing with new coils, and a Cowboy Hot Tubs wood fired hot tub heater. We harvested a bunch of veggies from Jim’s organic garden, and discussed the future growth of both Green-Trust and Woodhenge. Phil prepared some awesome quiche and peach pie, as well as other wonderful organic meals. Jim is helping us plan our new well and cistern upgrades. I also worked on the new Woodhenge Website, so there is content now and Jim and Krista know how to update it. The new timberframe cabin will be setup soon, as well as new wind turbines, so check them out often.

Posted by Steve Spence to Green-Trust Off Grid at 8/28/2006 06:10:00 AM


Visit to Woodhenge

Today we visited Woodhenge in Adams Center, NY. Jim Juczak, Owner/Builder of this cordwood research and training facility was host to a North Country meeting of the off-grid minds set up by Al McMahon of Autonomous Housing. Pics of the tour can be seen at our Photo Album, and other I-81/Rt. 11 Corridor off-gridders are encouraged to contact us for upcoming meetings.


Have Wood Will Travel – Complete Plans for the Keith Gasifier

waynekeithWayne Keith has built 5 trucks that run on wood. Each model is slightly more improved than the last. This V8 truck is the 5th generation. It has a series of vacuum gauges that provide information on performance of each part of the gasifier. This truck gets about 1 mile per pound of wood. Wayne has written his entire gasification experience into this book! Complete plans for the Keith gasifier include photos, diagrams, and detailed explanations of every step of the way.

Wayne Keith has spent a lot of time learning how woodgas works. He can answer all your questions and give detailed advice. We have a detailed video tutorial and some written material supporting it. Wayne documented his latest build in depth with video footage, and we’ve posted instructional videos from start to finish. You can follow along with Wayne, from selecting the materials all the way through firing up the truck the first time. Lots of folks have started building, some have completed trucks already. They are actively discussing their projects on the Premium-only Builders’ Discussion forum. Here you can see what folks like you have done and ask questions about the Keith gasifier. There’s also the Ask Wayne and Beta forums. Plus, all premium members get Wayne’s book FREE!