From John Shannon who writes about green energy,sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com
Of all of the energy produced and used by humans worldwide, approximately one-third is used for all forms of transportation. This kind of energy is the ‘dirtiest-third’ contributing substantially to total atmospheric emissions when compared to other kinds of energy usage.
Another third of the energy consumed by our civilization is used by industry, which also contributes to atmospheric emission levels — and depending on where you live in the world, the environmental effects of that pollution can range from negligible to toxic.
The last third of energy consumption on the Earth is used for residential and commercial uses. When you turn on the heat, the lights, or look at illuminated signs and streetlights on your way to the air-conditioned shopping mall, these are all examples of residential and commercial energy use.
When we talk about the emissions from the three main kinds of energy users, the question arises: which of the three can lower emissions at reasonable cost?
Another related question: is green energy the answer, or is conservation?
It turns out that conservation beats anything else, hands down. No matter how clean your car operates for each mile you drive it — for each mile that you don’t drive it, the car produces zero emissions. The same holds true for cities that shut-off or power-down their streetlights after midnight. No matter how energy-efficient streetlights are these days, they still use less power turned OFF, when compared to turned ON.
Of course, we need energy to live in our modern world – that is a given. But it seems right to reduce wasted energy and one of the most cost-effective ways to do this is to employ conservation AND green energy in our buildings.
Until recent decades, energy wastage for commercial buildings and residential buildings was truly mind-boggling (sometimes much more than 50%) but great progress has been made and continues to be made in the fields of energy conservation and energy-efficient buildings.
Buildings which employ such technologies can become LEED certified if their architects apply for that certification – and the buildings meet the strict criteria, which confers a high level of efficient design and engineering technologies on a building, resulting in low emissions and low energy use. We call this having a Low Environmental Footprint here in North America, while in the United Kingdom such buildings have a Zero Net Building status.
Under the leadership of DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray, the city is setting a great example for other cities by rapidly becoming a world leader in clean and green buildings.
The Living Building Challenge is part of numerous efforts by the city to reach Mayor Gray’s “Sustainable D.C.” initiative, which includes 11 key categories for environmental/fiscal improvement. The categories include goals such as cutting the energy consumption [of] the entire city by half, being able to bring in locally grown food within a quarter mile of the city and have it consumed by 75 percent of D.C. residents, as well as triple the number of small businesses within the city. – Carl Pierre, InTheCapital.com, D.C. is Planning its First Self-Sustaining, ‘Living Building’