EMPA Event Recap: Virtual Summer Picnic

Written by Kiersten Washle

The evening of July 9th everyone gathered round their computers to enjoy a virtual summer picnic with several guest speakers to discuss ideas around the theme of “How to Green Your Life.”

The first guest speaker, Sarah Oakes, spoke about how she vermicomposts in her backyard. She shared some practical tips for how anyone can compost, even without a backyard. For instance, she suggested keeping compostable scraps in a bag in your freezer until you can drop them off at a compost point.  

The second speaker, Thea, discussed her goal of having a wardrobe that isn’t environmentally harmful. She has developed a vetting practice for the brands she works with and purchases from to make sure they have truly sustainable practices versus greenwashed marketing. Check out her YouTube channel here

The last speaker, Prachi Dhavale, showed us how she created her own urban garden on a petit apartment balcony. Her space featured many brightly colored flowers and edible plants as well as a hummingbird feeder to really bring a touch of nature to an otherwise completely urban apartment. Check out more on her instagram @theperennialgreenlab

From these speakers and the conversations thereafter, here are some ideas on how to be more sustainable in your own life:

  • Compost
  • Avoid single use coffee cups by bringing your own or asking for your drink to be “for here” 
  • Air drying your clothes rather than using a dryer
  • Purchasing food with as little packaging as possible
  • Try growing your own food, some vegetables can be grown from scraps
  • Walk instead of drive
  • Shop locally
  • Use things until their end of life

Lastly, be sure to join us at the next EMPA meeting to get to know like-minded young professionals and grow the sustainable network!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Emerging Professionals of Massachusetts (EPMA) Committee is a community of ascending professionals cross the green building industry and allied fields helping drive sustainable and regenerative design, construction and operation of the built environment. The committee provides professional support, development and advocacy tools through active networking, monthly programming and community events.

Check the Hand-Dryer Facts: Five Fundamental Facts Build a Strong Case for Hand-Dryers

Written By Excel Dryer

Over the past few years, conflicting stories regarding hand-drying with paper towels versus hand dryers have proliferated. But industry professionals involved with building green, environmentally friendly buildings and facilities should understand the facts.

When you explore the latest statements and studies from the world’s foremost health authorities, the truth becomes much clearer. And, with hand hygiene playing a life-and-death role during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to inform your building decisions with the safest, most economical selections. Simply stated, a smarter clean and green solution is at hand.

Fact ✓  There is no scientific data that suggests hand dryers spread the coronavirus.

Actually, powered hand dryers have the ability to remove viruses. A leading, independent air media and filter testing company—LMS Technologies—recently tested the effectiveness of hand dryers against the spread of germs. The HEPA Filtration System available in Excel Hand Dryers removed 99.999 percent of viruses.

Science has proven that no-touch, sensor-activated, hands-under, high-speed, energy-efficient hand drying is absolutely a hygienic way to dry hands after washing—and is an extremely efficient option, as well. 

“We have no evidence that hand dryers are spreading the coronavirus…”

World Health Organization

“There is no evidence that these hand dryers are spreading the virus.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Fact ✓  Hand dryers are “greener” than paper towels.

Did you know it takes 17 trees, 20,000 gallons of water and 40 cubic feet of landfill space to produce one ton of virgin paper? Not only that, that paper production pollutes 7,000 gallons of water.

The XLERATOR® Hand Dryer dries hands completely in eight seconds and uses 80 percent less energy than conventional dryers. XLERATOR is the only hand dryer that is Made In USA Certified®, BuildingGreen Approved and helps qualify for the most LEED® Credits of any hand dryer on the market.

Fact ✓  Hand dryers are the economical solution.

Hand dryers aren’t just “green”—they save you green as well. Operating hand dryers can cost as little as 50 cents per 1,000 uses. Comparatively, paper towels cost about $23 per 1,000 uses. That’s a huge costs savings. Over the life expectancy of the XLERATOR (1.35 million cycles), you can save almost $30,000 per hand dryer installed.

Our hand dryers also require minimal maintenance, improve restroom hygiene and contribute to a “touchless” restroom experience.

Fact ✓  Hand dryers are more sustainable than paper towels.

High-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers allow you to enjoy a 75% reduction in your carbon footprint versus paper towels. Excel Dryer continues to lead the industry in environmental sustainability. Excel was also the first in the industry to have their products independently evaluated, and their environmental claims substantiated with the publication of the hand dryer industry’s first Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

There’s never been a better time to look into premium-quality hand dryers with HEPA filtration. Excel Dryers are the cleaner, greener choice. Ready to learn more? Give us a call at 888-503-7937 or visit exceldryer.com.

Leading Health Organizations Recommend the Use of Hand Dryers

Written by Excel Dryer

Excel Dryer sets the record straight: Hand dryers are hygienic, but misinformation persists

East Longmeadow, Mass. – The topic of hygiene has come to the forefront in mainstream media as reopening plans are introduced around the globe. While leading health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend the use of hand dryers, misinformation about them remains online, and continues to be quoted and perpetuated. Leaders from Excel Dryer, manufacturer of XLERATOR® Hand Dryers, wish to deliver a message to educate the professionals, consultants and government officials who are creating reopening guidelines, and the general public, especially in times of COVID-19: Excel hand dryers are a safe, hygienic touchless solution and an effective way to achieve completely dry hands, a critical part of proper hand hygiene, the top defense against the spread of germs.

Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., Professor and Department Chair at the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, offered an explanation as to the root of these misconceptions, stating that, “Consumers may only read [sensationalized] headlines which can influence public opinion toward biased or erroneous conclusions, [but] the fact is, the breadth of data available does not favor one hand drying method as being more hygienic or safer.”

Excel hand dryers provide a touchless hand drying solution to help prevent potential cross-contamination between restroom surfaces and wet hands. All dryers in Excel’s line are hygienic, but dryers with HEPA have been proven to add another level of protection. Viral efficiency testing conducted by the preeminent independent air media and filter testing company, LMS Technologies in April of 2020 found that XLERATOR®, XLERATOReco® and XLERATORsync® Hand Dryers with HEPA Filtration Systems remove 99.999 percent of viruses from the airstream. 

William Gagnon, vice president of marketing and sales at Excel Dryer, wishes to correct misinformation and biases about hand dryers. “Hand dryers are hygienic and have been used to properly dry hands for decades. In addition to top health organizations recommending their use, hand dryers also provide significant benefits over paper that are undisputable. For example, our recent test results prove XLERATOR hand dryers with HEPA Filtration Systems remove 99.999 percent of viruses from the airstream, something paper will never be able to do.”

Conversely, paper towels may not be as hygienic as the public believes. One independent study showed 17 species of bacteria on unused, recycled paper towels, including Bacillus, which can cause food poisoning. After their use, damp paper towels are a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria in and around trash receptacles and can be used to clog toilets and sinks creating a very unhygienic restroom environment. If the paper towels are out of stock, visitors cannot dry their hands at all, and wet hands have been shown to be 1,000 times more likely to transfer germs than dry hands.

Gagnon concluded, “I encourage members of the public and those individuals charged with the creation of guidelines, reopening plans or facilities operations, to dive deeper into news articles and hygiene studies rather than simply believing sensationalized, click-bait headlines born from biased results. Hand dryers are safe and hygienic. They dry hands completely, and are a top defense against the spread of germs.”

About Excel Dryer, Inc.

Excel Dryer has been manufacturing the finest American-made hand dryers for more than 50 years. The family-owned and -operated company revolutionized the industry with the invention of the patented XLERATOR® Hand Dryer that created the high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryer category and set a new standard for performance, reliability and customer satisfaction. Excel Dryer prides itself on offering the best customer service and making hygienic, cost-effective and sustainable products people can depend on. Available for distribution worldwide, Excel Dryer products can be purchased through an established network of sales representatives who call on more than 5,000 distributors globally. Learn more about Excel Dryer at exceldryer.com.

Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, Revised Edition, by BE+ Member Kimberly Vermeer, Is Now Available

Co-author Walker Wells & Kim Vermeer

Built Environment Plus member Kimberly Vermeer’s new book has just been published by Island Press! Kim Vermeer and co-author Walker Wells explore the compounding issues of the lack of affordable housing and the climate crisis in Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, Revised Edition.  

Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing is the most comprehensive resource on how green building principles can be incorporated into affordable housing design, construction, and operation. The book offers guidance on innovative practices, green building certifications, and the latest financing strategies. In addition, Vermeer and Wells feature 14 case studies to illustrate how green building principles can be incorporated into diverse housing types and in locations across the country.

Blueprint shares detailed insights into how the many elements of a green building are incorporated into affordable house design, construction, and operation.  The lack of affordable housing and the climate crisis are two of the most pressing challenges we are facing today. Green affordable housing addresses both by providing housing stability, safety, and financial predictability while constructing and operating the buildings to reduce environmental and climate impacts. “Walker and I are pleased to share the lessons and best practices from our years of experience,” says Kim. “We hope the Blueprint will inspire a new generation of rising leaders to integrate green building concepts into practice.” 

If you would like to buy the book from Island Press, use code


for a 20% discount.

You can also order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and independent booksellers. Learn more about the book, forthcoming book related events, and other resources here.

The Future of LEED – Reflections on a Year on the LEED Steering Committee

By Chris Schaffner

We’re living through difficult times. I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy, and you can continue to do your good work. Current events are on everyone’s mind, but sustainability remains an important long-term consideration. We are committed to creating a just and sustainable future, and recent events only highlight the need for this work.

In December 2019 I completed my term as chair of the USGBC LEED Steering Committee. I thought I’d spend a few moments to reflect on that experience and discuss the direction that LEED is heading.

I believe we are at an inflection point. The foundations of our work today were laid 25 years or so ago. LEED has brought green building to the forefront and has turned what was the cutting edge into the business as usual. LEED v4.1 has been well-received, but its impact on the market is still pretty small, especially compared to the crisis we face. We must rise to this challenge.

The climate crisis is ever increasing in its urgency. National governments have failed in their obligation to guide the planet to a safe landing. Local governments and NGOs, citizens, people like us, must step into this void.   At the same time economic inequality increases – the gap between rich and poor widens. Those most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate are also least equipped to deal with the results. 

The green building market is changing rapidly. Calls for energy efficiency have become calls for net zero buildings and decarbonization.  A few years ago, the idea of climate resilience was seen by some as an admission of defeat. Now it’s a key part of green building strategies. Cities like New York are creating rules that will put a real price on carbon. And demand for the elimination of fossil fuel use is growing. For example, Architecture 2030 recently called for a complete ban on fossil fuel use in all new buildings.  We’re transitioning away from the so-called “transition fuels.” It’s 2020, the future is here now. 

We, the members of the USGBC, have an opportunity and an obligation.  LEED addresses the full GHG impact of buildings – not just operational energy, but materials, transportation, water, and waste. But we need to strengthen LEED’s connection to climate, throughout the rating system, and make it more apparent to users. We also must stop sending mixed signals, by using metrics like energy cost rather than GHG emissions. We must embrace and incorporate climate resilience. And we must strengthen the connection between design and operations through recertification, so that a LEED Certification is not just a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process. We must do all these things, and we must do it while increasing LEED’s impact and market share.

Further, while we recognize that human health and social equity are factors in true sustainability, they’ve always been silent partners in LEED – along for the ride but never the focus. This will have to change. 

With these thoughts in mind, here’s where I see LEED heading in the next few years:

  1. Social Equity, Health, and Resilience: The USGBC community will come together this summer through events like the recent Social Equity Summit and the upcoming Healthy Economy Forum to gather ideas and lessons learned from recent events. Some will be whisked straight into LEED v4.1. Others may require more refinement and might wait until the next update.  (Timeline – Summer 2020)
  2. Balloting of LEED v4.1:  LEED v4.1 is still in Beta form, but it has already had a positive impact. Over the next few months the USGBC will use lessons learned from early adopters and will incorporate new lessons from recent events to create a final version to be balloted. Look for balloting to occur around the New Year, with a final version of v4.1 by Spring 2021. (Timeline – early 2021)
  3. Further Incorporation of Carbon, Wellness, Social Equity, and Resilience:  These have become the key issues driving the sustainability discussion today. Over the last 25 years we’ve gone from thinking about buildings’ effects on the environment, to the larger realm of “triple bottom line” sustainability. In the short term expect to see credit intents change to more explicitly highlight a strategy’s impact in these areas as part of the ballot version of v4.1. There is also discussion around creating some kind of recognition for LEED projects that specifically meet goals in social equity, human health, or resilience. For example, “Ten for Equity” would identify ten credits dealing with social equity, and a project that earned all ten might get special recognition.  (Timeline – early 2021, as part of the balloted version.)     
  4. Integration with the Arc Platform and the need for recertification: For years, LEED has struggled with the gap between predictions and performance. It’s time to close this gap. In the future a building will only be considered a LEED building if it can demonstrate performance worthy of the label. The plan is to use Arc to do this. Buildings will first earn LEED Certification in any of the traditional ways – through the New Construction or Existing Buildings Rating systems – but will use Arc to recertify periodically.  Currently recertification for New Construction projects is optional. Watch for it to become mandatory in the near future. (Timeline – no later than end of 2021)    
  5. LEED Positive: At Greenbuild in 2019 USGBC announced the coming of “LEED Positive,” but details of this concept have been sketchy.  It’s a work in progress. Think of it as LEED v5 if you want. The core concept is that we look ahead to 2050 and see where we need to be, and then we design the incremental steps that get us there, imagining an updated LEED every five years. It’s “LEED Positive” because we need to move from a mode reducing negative impacts to creating positive impacts.  As a part of this, we’d set specific minimum requirements for carbon reductions in each iteration, with New Construction projects getting to zero operational carbon very quickly.   (Timeline – More details of LEED Positive and a road map by Fall 2021, LEED v5 by 2025)

These are some of the ideas around the future of LEED. I welcome your feedback, input, and participation in the development of LEED Positive. The consensus process is the real strength of LEED, our secret weapon, and it doesn’t happen without all of you.

One thing we know for sure is that business as usual is not going to cut it. 25 years ago, LEED was a bold vision. It’s time to be bold again. I know we can and will do it, starting here, right now.

About Chris Schaffner

Chris Schaffner, PE, LEED Fellow, is Founder and CEO of The Green Engineer, Inc. a sustainable design consulting firm located in Concord, MA ( and a BE+ Silver Sponsor) . Chris and his firm have completed over 200 LEED Certified projects. He has a long history of volunteering and advocacy for green buildings. He served as a founding board member of USGBC MA, and was chair of the US GBC LEED Steering Committee in 2019.