Posts Tagged ‘green’

Friday night I was lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes peek at the new Orlando Magic Arena (aka Amway Center). This event was for the people who “were part of building the legend that is the new Amway Center” – aka architects, engineers, consultants, contractors, government officials, designers, etc. Wanna check it out?

I don’t usually talk a lot about my job on the blog, but in case you’re wondering, I’m a green building consultant and one of my old projects from my previous firm was the new arena. I left the old firm shortly after the project started, so the last time I’d been inside this building it was still a big concrete open structure – much like the Roman Coliseum! As you can see, it filled out quite nicely 🙂

The “OZONE” is keyword for the cheap seats, and they even put a bar over here in case you want to get a drink and still watch the game live. The new arena actually has less seats than the old one, but they made room for a lot of private suites and larger seats (presumably for larger people… but that’s a different blog topic).

The party started out in the Mercedes Benz Star Lounge on the bottom level, it’s next to the players’ locker rooms, just like the “Club Blue” in the old arena, where VIPs can get their drink on and shake hands with the players and other celebrities. The drinks were flowing, including a few vodka cranberries for me 🙂

(I’ve seen this “wavy wall” in so many buildings in Orlando – I’m convinced somewhere there’s a wavy wall salesman taking all the right people out to lunch…)

After about an hour of schmoozing in the VIP area, we were herded out to the court to hear the mayors give thanks to the design & construction team. It felt pretty epic, I’ll admit 🙂 We also had a champagne toast to commemorate the occasion.

Then we were let loose inside the empty arena to explore the bars, restaurants, and other areas. There are so many high end decorations in here, it felt like we were inside a super fancy mall or art gallery! 

We hung out on the Gentleman Jack’s Terrace, which is a cool outside bar next to the iconic blue beacon that faces downtown Orlando.

There were musicians playing reggae songs on the xylophones, and gave the party a classy beach vibe.

The blue beacon is very blue…

(can you spot my pedometer on my hip? hehe I got in about 6,000 steps during this event)

What an awesome view of the city!

We went inside again to explore some more and got some good pictures to show you how HUGE this place is!

All those drinks… couldn’t find the ladies’ room… so I used the men’s room! Definitely won’t be able to do that once the place opens! 😛

We (I’m referring to me, the fiancée, Kellie the BFF, and our boss) found the kids zone – a big play area with a jungle gym, slides, video games, and these awesome touch-screen game tables.

Played a little chess with the fiancee,

and Kellie got a little squirrelly with the touch boards 🙂

Took a picture with the Dwight Howard cutout… 

It felt like we were locked inside the mall after hours, with all the storefronts closed but nobody else around! That’s always been one of my dreams, roaming the halls inside the mall and goofing off with my friends – it pretty much came true tonight, except in an NBA arena instead of a mall, but close enough 🙂

“This is soooo cool!!!”

We finally made our way up to the Sky Bar, which is on top of Gentleman Jack’s Terrace, at the top of the blue beacon. It’s a cool Miami-style futuristic bar with an epic view of downtown.

After hanging here for a while, we ended up at Jernigan’s, a bar/restaurant on the club level (above the public bar) and stuffed our faces with desserts, including pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate chunk brownies. The appetizers weren’t veg-friendly so my “dinner” was vodka cranberries & sugary desserts… hey, when they can’t eat non-veg-friendly appetizers, let them eat cheesecake 🙂

So back to business – my (tiny) role on this project was to help with the green building certification (aka LEED), so here are some of the sustainable highlights in the new arena.

Drought-tolerant landscaping:

:::sustainability fail::: random lights shining onto a building while the sun’s still up… I’m guessing this will be fixed soon.

Bike racks to encourage alternative transportation – and they’re already being used, this is a good sign! The fiancée and I already scoped out our scooter parking spot 🙂


Big Ass Fans (that’s the brand name) – help keep people cool without having to lower the air conditioning to a crazy level in such a big space with high ceilings. These are genius and used in a lot of gymnasiums, atriums, etc.

Recycling (something I’m so happy to see, especially when it’s in-your-face public, I hate having to hunt for a recycling bin!)

Dual-flush toilets (up for pee, down for poo) – FYI you can buy residential-style dual-flush toilets at Home Depot for the same price as normal toilets, and they save a ton of water. In a traditional toilet, you are using 1.6 gallons (or up to 3.5 gallons if your toilet is older) of fresh drinking water to move your pee/poo down the drain. With the dual-flush toilets in the Magic Arena, every time you poo, it uses 1.6 gallons of water. Every time you pee, it only uses 0.8 to 1.1 gallons, depending on the toilet model. That isn’t rocket science, it’s just common sense – you don’t need as much water to move pee through pipes! 🙂  

Dual-flush toilets are even making their way into the residential market: the fiancée’s dad installed one in his house earlier this year, and two of our friends just put one in their guest bathroom during a remodel! You can bet your britches we’ll have them in our home (when we get around to buying a house). It’s also important to educate people on how dual-flush toilets work, because drunk basketball fans might have a hard time knowing which way to flush.

And the no-smoking signs on the way out to the patio bars.

It was so cool from my perspective to be in this building and see all the sustainable features, in a really public way. I’ve been in tons of green buildings that you would never know you’re in an eco-friendly place (like offices that use rainwater for flushing their toilets but don’t put signs up to educate anyone about it) – this arena has a great chance to get the green word out because they’ll have so many visitors to the events!

And my absolute favorite sustainable feature of the arena is one that I couldn’t photograph… the SMELL! Or lack thereof… normally when you step into a new building it smells like fresh paint, new carpet, adhesives, etc. (like the “new car smell” in a car) – that’s Volatile Organic Compounds, aka VOCs. You’ve probably heard of “Low VOC paint” before – which is another no-brainer since the products are available anywhere where normal paint is sold. The construction team did a fantastic job protecting the indoor air quality in the building so that when we walked through, it didn’t smell like any toxic construction adhesives or chemicals – it just felt fresh and clean and cool 🙂

What’s the coolest “green” thing you’ve seen lately?


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Why I Eat Organic


Obviously I’d ideally eat everything organic, but we all know that sometimes paying $4 for a handful of tomatoes just isn’t realistic, especially when you’re trying to save some money for a house/wedding/baby in this economy. Keeping that in mind, I’ll share with you my strategy of what I buy organic and what I buy conventional.

Some foods are more important to be eaten organic than others – there’s a great list posted by the Environmental Working Group, and they explain it a lot better than I can why certain foods are more susceptible to pesticides (i.e. spinach soaks stuff up like a sponge), and why other foods don’t really get affected by pesticide spray (since you don’t eat the skin of a pineapple).

The way I keep it straight is by posting a list on my fridge, so when I make my grocery list for the week, I put a * by foods that should be organic.

I forget where I got my full list from, but note that the top most important should-be organic food is MEAT! That’s because when you’re eating conventional meat, you’re also eating the pesticides sprayed on the grass that the cow/chicken/pig ate, along with the antibiotics given to the animal to keep them alive long enough to make it to the slaughter house… I’ll post later about the many reasons why I’m a vegetarian.

The second most important is milk, because dairy contains about five times the amount of pesticides as fruits & vegetables. It’s an easy switch to organic dairy since most places that you buy yogurt offer Stonyfield Farms (normal and Oikos greek yogurt). The harder part is where to find organic parmesan, mozzarella, and other cheeses – I haven’t digged around the Whole Foods cheese section but I bet I can find some treasures there 🙂 Also, we don’t drink cow’s milk straight up in our house anymore (big change for me since I always had a gallon of skim on hand) – I also don’t like the taste of soymilk plain, so I usually go with Rice Dream or Almond Breeze, mmm 🙂

Another important organic food to note is COFFEE. I had a discussion with the fiancee about this, because I told him that coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides and he drinks at least 2-3 cups a day. He thinks that when the beans are roasted, the chemicals “burn off” of the coffee so it’s not in what you drink.

Then I reminded him that buying organic is not just about YOUR HEALTH, it’s also about THE PLANET’S HEALTH… most pesticides are petroleum-based (read: OIL), and end up in the water. So even if you don’t ingest the pesticides yourself (like if you’re eating conventional bananas…), that doesn’t negate the fact that the oil still had to come out of the ground to bind to the toxic chemicals which were sprayed on the plants and absorbed into the soil and water. Also keep in mind that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world (next to petroleum), and a lot of coffee comes from sketchy places with questionable farming practices that don’t treat their workers fairly.

You’ll hear me say this a lot, but every time you buy something, you are voting with your dollar. Even if you don’t eat the pesticide-covered skin of the banana, by buying conventional bananas, you’re sending the message that you don’t mind living in a pesticide-filled world. And you’re sending a check to the bad guys who get paid a lot of money to pump oil from the ground/under the ocean.

Remember, I live in Florida:



In case you missed something, we have a big mess on our hands not too far from where I live as a result of this irresponsible drilling (to spray the peels of bananas that we don’t eat…)


So please, try to think beyond the banana peel when you’re shopping. I know not everyone can afford to buy every single thing organic, nor do many stores offer a good selection (hello, I still shop at Walmart). However, as it becomes more common (I read recently that 3/4 of shoppers purchase at least 1 organic food item each time they get groceries), simple economics shows us that the price will go down and it will be easier for us all to eat healthy with the planet in mind.

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