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Being Green: The Value of Conservation

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post!  In last week’s post I referenced an article titled, “World’s ‘Greenest’ Home? It Depends on What You Mean by Green“.  One of the homes mentioned in the article includes:

A California couple, whom The Atlantic magazine has featured in their quest to build “the world’s greenest home” — a five-bedroom, 5,600-square-foot house with solar panels strong enough to charge five electric cars, power the house and return energy to the grid.

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Solar panels and other features let some trendy houses produce enough of their own energy that they actually sell power back to the energy company, which is nifty. Yet a person vying to live in the world’s “greenest” house could theoretically load it up with big-screen TVs and other less-than-efficient appliances, then write a mega-check to put solar panels all over the roof. But the resources consumed would belie the “green” label.

“You can get to net-zero just by writing a check,” notes Roberts. “There’s something a little off about that.”

For the most part I agree with the author of this post and was going to write a comment to that effect but wasn’t quite sure how to phrase it.  The answer came from a webinar I watched this week.

Christmas Hill

This is an image I made recently in a local park called ‘Christmas Hill’.  I’ll admit, it doesn’t look like much, but there’s an awful lot going on.  Christmas Hill is essentially a large rock outcrop surrounded primarily by garry oak meadow.  It’s important because garry oak is now only found on 5% of its former range.  That’s not why I added in this image, however, and no, I haven’t made a sudden left turn from reality.  As I said, looking at this image the average person doesn’t see much – a few lichens, some moss, a few licorice ferns and some grass.  So?  What’s really amazing is that the lichens have evolved a way to grow right into the rock itself, and that the growth of the lichens has provided enough structure for the mosses to take hold.  The presence of the mosses has given support for the ferns and the grasses and the other vascular plants.  So?  Well, these simple underpinnings provide the basis for the existence of the entire ecosystem.  Similar processes are at work in every ecosystem on earth, where small workings provide the basis for the larger plants and animals to exist.  They’re not big, they’re not showy, but they are vital.  So what does that have to do with green building?

Well, the webinar I watched this week was by Dr. Jennifer Languell and titled, “Conservation vs. Renewable Energy – What is the Future of Energy?”  In her webinar Dr. Languell discussed such things as embodied energy, providing a direct comparison between the costs and savings of something as simple as swapping out incandescent lightbulbs for LEDs of CF bulbs vs. installing solar panels to create a ‘net zero energy’ building..  Changing lightbulbs or caulking around your windows isn’t particularly flashy, but the most important unit of energy is one you never have to generate in the first place.  One comparison she made that should provide a graphic example is that during the recent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 35,000 barrels of oil were leaking into the Gulf every day.  Right now energy loss from inefficient windows in buildings in the US alone is equivalent to about 2,000,000 barrels of oil per day, every day.  If half of the buildings in the US were to upgrade their windows the country would save the equivalent of 1,000,000 barrels of oil per day in the long-term.  It’s not quite so simple because of the construction, transport and installation of the new windows and the disposal of the old ones, but it is a clear example of how best to go ‘green’.   Make your home, office, factory or generating station as efficient as you can, and THEN think about new and better ways to provide energy, like solar panels, wind generators and the like.  She also emphasized the emphasis of good design, as we’ve become over-reliant on mechanical systems like air conditioners to cool the air when proper orientation, insulation and ventilation could do much if not all of the same task and with no ‘energy cost’.  You do have to register/ sign in to see her talk, but it’s well worth it.

Okay, the links for this week include:

Okay, that’s it for now. Have a great week!

Hugs,
Mike.

P.S. This is pretty cool… Crossing Australia in a Kite-powered Car

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