The Green Planet

Spotlight on Don Gibson, recycling coordinator for the city of Tucson May 5, 2009

Filed under: People — thegreenplanet @ 9:27 am

In 1992 Don Gibson moved to Tucson to become the recycling coordinator for the city of Tucson.

The previous coordinator moved to Colorado, and Gibson, who was working for the city of Chandler at the time, also needed a change of scene.

Blue Barrel Program

During his time as coordinator Gibson has implemented programs that have been extremely beneficial to Tucson.

He began the green bin program, which later became the blue barrel program in 2002.

When he began the program it needed $5 million for the blue barrels, but they did not have the funds for it. However the solid waste department had excess funds which were then used to fund the blue barrel program.

Recycling Wrongs

Gibson said his biggest issue is when people recycle incorrectly.

Contrary to what the public might think, in recent years trash in recycling bins has actually increased.

“It is an ongoing frustration with education efforts and the community,” Gibson said. People get the idea to recycle and they start to recycle anything plastic: plastic fill, plastic bags, toys and plastic utensils.

The only plastics recyclable at the Tucson recycling plant are plastics with a 1 or 2 stamped on the bottom, which include bottles with necks and screw tops. All other plastics cannot be recycled and find their way to the trash bin.

List of items that can be recycled

Recycling Industry

Every tour Gibson gives of the recycling facility he makes sure to mention the press release from the EPA from November 2008.

According to the EPA’s 2007 Municipal Solid Waste Characterization report, “Americans save energy, conserve natural resources, and help reduce climate change every time they reduce, reuse, or recycle.”

The report stated that “recycling 85 billion tons of municipal solid waste in 2007 saved the energy equivalent of more than 10.7 billion gallons of gasoline and prevented the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 35 million passenger vehicles.”

The recycling and reuse industry also creates jobs and provides economic benefits.

“The American recycling and reuse industry is a $200 billion dollar enterprise involving more than 50,000 recycling and reuse establishments, employing more than 1 million people, and generating an annual payroll of approximately $37 billion,” stated the EPA press release.

Future of the Industry

The industry is changing. The recycling of newspapers has gone down and plastics have gone up, Gibson said.

“Change is a good thing. We will maintain a course and will continue adjusting to the changing times,” he said.

The neighborhood recycling centers, 14 drop-off sites around Tucson are closing in order to save money.

Article on the neighborhood recycling center closures

When the recycling centers around town are gone the recycling will drop considerably, Gibson said. But he is still hopeful.

“It is a rewarding job. I enjoy going to work everyday, and though I enjoy going home at night, I don’t regret going to work the next morning,” Gibson said.

“I like it better than working in landfills and dealing with garbage,” he said. “It is a better environment to be in.”


Mohyeddin Abdulaziz April 17, 2009

Filed under: People — thegreenplanet @ 2:48 pm

Spotlight on Mohyeddin Abdulaziz, a green home owner.

“What we do affects everyone, good and bad the more people we have around us that take that path to do good to the environment we all benefit, said Mohyeddin Abdulaziz.

Abdulaziz, the director of information technology for the University of Arizona College of Law, tries to live his life as environmentally friendly as possible.

Abdulaziz uses rainwater to water his plants. He installed solar panels in his home in June, and bikes to work every day.

“Rainwater that is unused goes to waste, instead we should use it,” Abdulaziz said. “I also save a lot of money on water bills.”

Abdulaziz stresses the importance of being environmentally-friendly.

“I feel as an individual I am responsible. I need to do something to help my family, friends, and the environment,” he said.

Though he tries to be “green” to help the world, he admits he does it because it makes him happy.

“The joy one gets from doing the right thing makes life much happier, and makes the world a better place for everyone,” Abdulaziz said.


Local Company Builds Healthy Homes March 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thegreenplanet @ 10:59 am

Building Healthy Homes


Just like a new car, a new home will have that “new-home scent.”  This scent, Francis Maasland, a certified LEED (Land Environment Economics and Development) builder said, is off-gassing and it is “really bad” for you.  It is the smell of the chemicals in the new cabinets, carpets, glue, countertops, etc. It can cause drowsiness, respiratory problems, eye irritation and organ damage, according to, a division of Environmental Services Group Inc.


When Maasland noticed his daughter was having trouble sleeping because of asthma and nausea, he knew it was time to move out of his home at Rita Ranch and build his own healthy home.



Laminates and adhesives on cabinets and countertops release a significant amount of chemicals into a new home.

Laminates and adhesives on cabinets and countertops release a significant amount of chemicals into a new home.


Maasland referred to his home and other “poorly constructed” homes as “toxic bombs.”  Factors contributing to the toxins were from mold, formaldehyde, and off-gassing.


“If you get sick, it really doesn’t matter how green the building is,” Maasland said


This is why his first priority for building is health.  Following that is energy efficiency, so the bills are lower.  Recycled content is the last of his priorities, because it does the “least thing for you,” he said.



“If you buy recycled material that had to be shipped a long way, are you really being efficient?” he asked.



 It’s All About Lifestyle


“My kids know when they leave the room to turn out the lights because I drilled it into them,” Maasland said.


He said that while you may think you are environmentally friendly, if you left the house today and your charger is still plugged into the wall, then you’ve already messed up. 



According to EnviroStats, “the average cell phone uses 3W, but only 5 percent of the power drawn by cell phone chargers are actually used to charge phones. The other 95 percent is wasted when the charger is left plugged into the wall, but not the phone.”

According to EnviroStats, “the average cell phone uses 3W, but only 5 percent of the power drawn by cell phone chargers are actually used to charge phones. The other 95 percent is wasted when the charger is left plugged into the wall, but not the phone.”


“It’s all about lifestyle,” Maasland said.


Maasland believes the environment is in need of a lifestyle change.


“In ten years, green building will just be referred to as building.  It’ll be the norm.”



Growing Up Green 


Maasland grew up in Amsterdam where he said citizens were much more conscious about the environment.  People always brought their own bags to the grocery store. They even brought their own containers to restaurants for leftovers.  When the first McDonald’s opened in Amsterdam in 1973, Maasland said the protests against the packaging were “insane.”


Maasland said the people didn’t understand why they were wasting so much packaging just to hand someone a burger that they were going to eat right away.


When Maasland later moved to New York, he was interested building, yet he didn’t like the way builders were just throwing away unused or old materials.


Desert Green Builders


Tucson- based Desert Green Builders is a  marketing company for Maasland’s services, according to Maasland,.  Maasland does the building work for Desert Green Builders and his partner, David Blair, focuses on planning, budgeting and preparation for the projects according to their Web site


At the end of the month, Desert Green Builders will be building their fourth home in two years.  The home will be in the Catalina Foothills and will feature Mikey Block, an environmentally friendly insulation produced in Tucson.


“Unfortunately we started right when the building boom ended,” Blair said.


Blair said the extent of their “green” building is entirely up to the client.  Some clients are willing to pay the $10,000 to $30,000  for solar panels.  He said the investment is similar to investing in a Prius; it will take about 10 to 15 years to get your money back.


According to Blair, clients who only want to spend an extra $5,000 to $8,000 could still get a lot done. For example, they can get better insulation that will give them the Tucson Electric Company Guarantee of never have an electric bill higher than a certain amount.


An average home — 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1,800 sq. ft. — would cost around $250,000 according to Blair.


David Bachman-Williams March 21, 2009

Filed under: People — thegreenplanet @ 4:10 pm

Spotlight on David Bachman-Williams, a green homeowner.

David Bachman-Williams has a greenhouse in the middle of his home in downtown Tucson, Ariz. His home is run on 95 percent solar electricity, waters his plants with rainwater, and bikes to work everyday.


He is a lean, green machine.


Bachman-Williams has been environmentally friendly for years, but said when the “issue of global warming exploded on us I became more aware and began to live as efficiently as I could.”



He has three rainwater harvesting tanks in his yard that hold about 2,000 gallons of water total. The monsoon rains in July filled them up completely, and watered his plants until the end of September, he said.


“We try to use available water and use less city water because it takes so much energy to pump Colorado River water uphill for over 300 miles,” Bachman-Williams said .


He also installed a greywater system in his home.


The system is hooked up to the bathroom sink and shower, but he has yet to hook up his washing machine.



He also uses passive solar techniques for heating walls, double-paned windows, and energy-efficient appliances.


Bachman-William is geometry teacher at Tucson High Magnet School. He has his sophomores work out the cost of energy-efficient appliances in the long run. He said the math always comes out in favor of the energy-efficient appliances.


“They save money and last longer,” he said.


He has also biked to work for the last 18 years because of its zero emissions and to save gas money.


“As human beings we have two choices: either continue to severely alter the natural environment to our peril, or we can live in harmony with nature,” he said. “I chose the latter.”


Call it a comeback cat March 9, 2009

Filed under: Animals — thegreenplanet @ 4:16 pm

In some people’s opinion, former President George W. Bush made some mistakes during his eight-year reign. From the war in Iraq to Hurricane Katrina, his administration was arguably one of the most controversial and talked about in the past two decades. And while his administration may not have been the sole cause for the economy’s collapse, it did begin on his watch.

Add another aspect of shame to his administration: According to an article in the New York Times, the lynx was granted an expanded habitat after an investigation of Julie MacDonald, Bush’s appointee as the Interior Department’s deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service, had concluded she pressured biologists to reach “industry-friendly conclusions.” This caused the land allocated for the lynx to be far below the proposed amount advised by officials.

While there has been no speculation that Bush had asked MacDonald to act in that particular manner, this event, again, happened under his watch. MacDonald resigned in 2007.

Now, the Lynx will have 39,000 square miles of habitat in Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. This is 37,159 more miles than was originally set aside for the lynx following the 2006 conclusion despite being placed under threatened status under the Endangered Species Act in 2000. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, only about 1,000 lynx exist in the wild. With a little luck and new leadership, maybe this cat can make a comeback.


Building Green February 25, 2009

Filed under: Businesses,People — thegreenplanet @ 4:53 pm



Just as auto companies are turning toward environmentally friendly vehicles — electric, solar-powered and hybrids — a Tucson architect is turning toward environmentally friendly developments.


Rob Paulus, AIA, graduated from the University of Arizona in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.  Four years later, he started his own firm, Rob Paulus Architects, in Tucson.  The firm is dedicated to keeping our planet green.


“All of the projects we do are environmentally sustainable.  We feel it is the only responsible way to build,” said Randi Dorman, Paulus’ business partner and wife. Paulus is one of the developers of the Ice House Lofts, Barrio Metalico, IndigoModern, and his own office at 990 E. 17th St., just completed.  Dorman is also a developer and handles everything from thinking of a project, finding, purchasing and financing the land, working with the architects, getting the permits, marketing, sales, “basically everything,” she said.


“(Working with Paulus) is great,” Dorman said. “We have different strengths so we don’t overlap each other.  So there’s no conflict there.”


IndigoModern, located on Third Street just east of North Richey Boulevard, is one of Paulus’ most recent developments.  The $4 million project took 12 to 14 months to construct .  Units were sold during and before construction began.


“You usually don’t start construction on a project like (IndigoModern) without having some units pre-sold,” Dorman said.


Every detail of the homes was made with the environment in mind, including the landscape, lighting, windows, tile, siding, paint, insulation, concrete, sealants and the toilet. Each home is wired for solar panel heating and plumbed for solar hot water.   A harvesting tank outside each home collects rainwater for gardening, saving money and water.  A salt-water community pool benefits the swimmer by being less harsh on the eyes and skin and benefits the owner by requiring less maintenance.


The 11 single-family homes are approximately 1,800 sq. ft., two-story homes with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a balcony.


Plans for another Rob Paulus development, commercial and residential, are on hold.


“We will have to wait for a time when it is economically feasible to build a project like this again,” Dorman said.



CLICK HERE TO VIEW Living Green Brochure

Tucson meteorologist Jeff Beamish visits IndigoModern



·       Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances

·       Xeriscape your lawn

·       Plant trees to shade your home

·       Use low VOC paints

·       Have a low-emission coating on your windows

·       Make sure your home is well insulated

·       Install a solar hot water heater

·       Replace your furnace filters


Check out for more ideas and tips.


John Wesley Miller February 16, 2009

Filed under: People — thegreenplanet @ 5:52 pm

Spotlight on green builder John Wesley Miller.


John Wesley Miller has been working with solar power before “going green” became fashionable.  He is the owner of John Wesley Miller Companies, which builds solar-powered homes and just completed work on the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” house in Tucson, Ariz.


Miller first got involved in solar energy when he served on a solar power panel representing builders in Tucson. His experience in home building combined with his interest in renewable energy blossomed into a new career path.


 “People save money while saving the environment, there is nothing better,” Miller said.


Extreme Home Makeover

Miller has worked on many houses in the Tucson area, but most recently, and famously, he was the lead builder for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in Tucson.


“Extreme Makeover” is a reality television series that fixes homes for deserving families. According to the local reports, John and Kathleen Bell and their family were surprised to find that a new home would be theirs in less than a week. Lizzie Bell, 14, was born with a rare blood disorder that causes her bone marrow’s inability to produce red blood.


“Extreme Makeover” asked many local Tucsonans to recommend a good homebuilder. Miller’s name came up repeatedly and he was contacted, but he turned the offer down because he was too busy.


He met with the executive producer of the show, and after leaving the meeting three hours later he was convinced and agreed to the project.

“They are such a worthy family, and are heroes in their own right” he said. “The family has a devastating problem, but still helps others.”


About 2,000 local volunteers helped behind the scenes to make it happen.


Video of John Wesley Miller on the set


Armory Park Del Sol

Miller has been building houses equipped with solar panels since 1973 and believe he is the first in Tucson to do so. He recently built the first “net zero energy” home in Armory Park Del Sol a green housing development in downtown Tucson, Ariz.


Miller’s net zero energy home’s solar panels produce just as much if not more, power than it needs to power the house. When it creates excess energy, the power is transferred to Tucson Electric Power for other homes to use.


Biosphere 2

Miller also had a hand in the creation of the Biosphere 2. He worked on the project for 9 to 10 years planning and constructing the buildings and served as the energy consultant.



Miller, a national leader in green building practices, has received many awards. Most recently he earned the Energy Value Housing Award 2008,

Southern Arizona Builder’s Association’s 2007 Builder of the Year, and Governor Janet Napolitano’s Arizona Innovation Award.


Miller’s three daughters are also interested in solar energy and all have a hand in The Solar Store, 2833 N. Country Club Road.


“I am a blessed man to have so many wonderful friends and teachers,” Miller said.

And he will leave many behind him to follow in his footsteps.