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Online resources for going green

By: BEVERLY BUTULA//February 25, 2008//

Online resources for going green

By: BEVERLY BUTULA//February 25, 2008//

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Many businesses and municipalities are striving to “go green.” The focus of this effort can range from reducing waste, to utilizing energy efficient resources, to constructing buildings using new technologies.

Some companies have begun by encouraging two-sided printing, using recycling bins, turning off desktops at night, and subsidizing the use of public transportation. Federal, state and local governments are looking closer at green regulations and incentives.

This article, while far from exhaustive, will provide a few quality Web sites to consider when researching “green” issues.

Building Green

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the premier site for information on sustainable building practices. Thousands of businesses and organizations are members of the council. The USGBC site outlines the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, project certification, and professional accreditation.

Another valuable aspect of the site is the excellent resources. The Research and Publications page is a bit difficult to locate but includes quality reference materials. Their Green Building Links is an extensive listing of associations, building codes, government initiatives, and cases studies.

The National Resources Defense Council’s Building Green from Principle to Practice is a very user-friendly Web site. The NRDC Web page offers “developers, facilities managers and other building professionals practical, tactical advice about green building.”

The systematic arrangement of the main page takes the researcher on a tour of green development and necessary considerations. The resource center explores case studies, fact sheets, LEED certification information, and has a great “links” page.

The FedCenter is the federal government’s “home for comprehensive environmental stewardship and compliance assistance information.” The Construction Zone page is a one-stop center for construction debris issues and green construction. Best practices, regulations, statutory requirements, and a valuable database of manufacturers and suppliers are just a few of the resources found at this site.

GreenSource is a companion site to GreenSource magazine maintained by McGraw-Hill Companies. It provides news stories, case studies, products, and blogs.


We have all seen the Energy Star symbol on appliances, heaters, computers, and light bulbs. The Energy Star site, a collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, covers a wide area.

Topics include new homes, home improvement, and buildings/plants. Each main topic area is then broken down into subcategories.

For example, the building/plants section boosts an extensive online library that includes guidance documents, financial calculators, and energy performance materials. There is also a “getting started” menu for various types of institutions (e.g. health care, industrial, retail, schools, and small business). Once the researcher selects a business type, the Web site supplies an almost endless list of resources.

The Focus on Energy program works with businesses and homeowners to install energy efficient and renewable energy projects. Details of the various programs and tips for saving energy are available on the site. For researchers, two sections worth noting are the Research section and the Information Center.

The Environmental and Economic Research section links to study and project reports. The Information Center includes case profiles, fact sheets, energy calculators, and a tool lending library. The lending library consists of energy diagnostic tools that businesses can check out to test their buildings. Find more information at Information-Center/Tool-Lending-Library.

The POWER Initiative (Promoting Our Wisconsin Energy Resources) and its Web site were developed by the Office of Energy Independence, created by Gov. Jim Doyle. Executive orders, a renewable energy dictionary, information on biofuels, and energy statistics are available. Starting at the site map is the most efficient way to maneuver through the site.


The National Resources Conservation Service offers a page explaining NRCS standards and practices. The site discusses renewable energy sources for farms. Two key categories include the conservation planning tools and energy guidance. Documents include standards on windbreaks, grazing systems, and irrigation.

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, which is part of the National Agricultural Library (NAL), “specializes in identifying resources about sustainable food systems and practices in support of USDA’s effort to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture and farmers worldwide.” Resources are plentiful.

Information on farm energy, grazing, soil/water management, and organic production are just a few of the topics.

The librarians at the NAL have done an amazing job complying information. The “Publications” link supplies pathfinders, directories, databases, and bibliographies on sustainable agriculture. The researcher must conduct a separate query for archived materials. Another feature of value is the “Databases” link. This is a directory of online searchable databases. Each database is different, so some may generate a result list of full text documents, while others may only list journal citations.

Various Topics

SustainLane Government is a great source for best practices documents. The site does require registration. Once registered, the searcher has access to ordinances, programs, and action plans. More than 400 municipalities have contributed to the site. Categories of information include land use, transportation, green development, and many others.

SustainLane, a sister site to the government Web page, offers interesting statistics in their U.S. City Rankings. The rankings compare the largest U.S. cities on several sustainability factors. The site outlines their methodology and provides details for numerous categories including public transit, LEED buildings, tap water quality, and air quality. Currently, the posted data is from 2006.

The Smart Communities Network site is maintained by the National Center for Appropriate Technology. The site covers several areas including green buildings, land use, transportation, and resource efficiency. The site is well organized. It provides access to various codes and ordinances, relevant publications, case studies, and an overview section entitled “Key Principles.” The site index is a great navigational tool.

FedCenter on Sustainability organizes the “latest guidance, examples, and information resources to aid Federal facilities in developing and maintaining sustainable facilities and helping to develop and promote sustainable practices.” Links include regulations, policies, and databases.

One significant item is the Sustainable Development Virtual Library. This “library” is actually an independent site maintained by the Center for Economic and Social Studies on the Environment in Brussels.

Wisconsin Green and Healthy Schools Program is the Department of Natural Resources’ Web-based program for Wisconsin schools. It is both an educational and action based initiative. It is a three-tier program dealing with energy, transportation, air quality, and recycling issues.


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