Green, as in go for it - Walking the walk

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Some of these techniques are based on standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, which has devised the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. This mouthful rates performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environment quality. There is a LEED rating system specifically for homes.

"We used the LEED rating system as a guide only," says John Lake, who claims he and his wife actually exceeded LEED standards. John is, in fact, one of 10,000 active members of the Association of Energy Engineers.

Lori, on the other hand, seems to have green in her blood. Her standards are the same as her grandfather's. He lived in Vermont "where they used, and still use, mostly natural techniques that we now call green," she says.

All of these techniques were applied to the Lakes' kitchen and the rest of their home. The one thing different, notes Lori, is that "most green materials can now be purchased rather than making them on your own."

John, being the engineer type, stresses planning for the least waste possible and keeping designs simple. The most important green building technique is to go with natural and local products as much as possible. Local is important to green building not only to save the destruction of exotic species, but to reduce fuel usage in the transport of materials.

All paints, stains, insulation, and adhesives used in the project were non-toxic and emit no fumes of formaldehyde or VOCs. This considerably improves the quality of the indoor environment of their home. John says the Lakes also installed outside circulation in the house, office, and research center. They use a natural evaporative cooling system which releases heat to their pond.

Walking the walk
The Lakes run their Green Research Center as a business, testing new green products and energy sources as well as practicing self-sustainability.

"What has been missing," says John, "is practical guidance for busy, eco-minded people who want simple, modern, and earth-friendly solutions."

Part of the research center is GreenTV.com, their resource and education Web site for environmentally sound building projects. There are links to resources as well as self-made videos that describe projects they have undertaken at their home. The site and all of its resources are free, as are e-mail and phone consultations about green projects.

On-site consulting fees are $100/hr, but the Lakes say all fees and income they earn go back into the research done by GreenTV. Lake and his wife initially invested the proceeds from the sale of a large commercial building that had been in his family. Over the years, they say, they have put $1 million of their own money into the project. John says he was fortunate with business investments he has made over time, and now has the means to help and educate people about going green.

Birth of GreenTV
A turning point in his life, he says, prompted him to help others.

Twelve years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. He says he beat the disease through natural healing techniques.