It’s not easy being green… is it?

Hi Folks:

Kermit the Frog sang:

“It’s not that easy bein’ green;

Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or
yellow or gold-
or something much more colorful like that.

It’s not easy bein’ green.
It seems you blend in with so many other
ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re
not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water-
or stars in the sky.

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
like a mountain, or tall like a tree.

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why?
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine,
it’s beautiful!
And I think it’s what I want to be.”

So in that sense, I’m with Kermit.  For me, being ‘green’ is something that’s interested me for nearly forty years now.  I’m not talking about skin colour, but my relationship with the Earth.  After all, we only have one planet, and while the earth may be some 40,000 km in circumference, I think astronaut Russel Schweikart summed it up best:

“And so a little later on, your friend, again those same neighbors, another astronaut, the person next to you goes out to the Moon. And now he looks back and he sees the Earth not as something big, where he can see the beautiful details, but he sees the Earth as a small thing out there. And now that contrast between that bright blue and white Christmas tree ornament and that black sky, that infinite universe, really comes through. The size of it, the significance of it – it becomes both things, it becomes so small and so fragile, and such a precious little spot in that universe, that you can block it out with your thumb, and you realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing is everything that means anything to you. All of history and music and poetry and art and war and death and birth and love, tears, joy, games, all of it is on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb.

And you realize that that perspective . . . that you’ve changed, that there’s something new there. That relationship is no longer what it was.”

So, after that (very) long introduction…

Being ‘green’ is a popular buzzword today, and perhaps no more so than in the construction of our cities and our buildings.  I don’t know if people realize it or not, but in the US for example, construction, maintainenance and demolition of buildings accounts for about 40% of the country’s total energy consumption, and is responsible for an enormous amount of greenhouse gases.  I don’t think things are much different in Canada.  I used to work in Maple, ON, near the top end of Toronto, starting in the late 1980s.   That was during the big housing boom, and every day I drove past new subdivisions being put up – thousands of new units over a few years.  For the most part, they were just slapped together – built to code, but no better.  Now, I’m not much into doom and gloom, especially when there are so many wonderful alternatives, and in the past few years this whole idea has really skyrocketed.  Terms like green building, LEED, R2000, etc. aren’t exactly house-hold words, but they’re coming more and more into the mainstream.  They’re being accompanied by terms like ‘greenwashing‘ – where a company tries to sell itself as being more ‘green’ than it is, but I’ll let someone else talk about that.

I remember watching a webinar presentation a few months back, and while I regret I can`t think of the name of the presenter right now, I do remember one of his key points.  People today are talking more about the `triple bottom line`- environmental sustainability, corporate sustainability (including fair and equitable treatment of employees), and monetary profit – and he described these three ideas as being like a three-legged stool.  He went on to say that the important thing to remember is not that if you remove one of the legs the stool will fall over.  What is important to remember is that it doesn`t matter which one of the legs you remove, the stool still falls over.

One of the amazing things about the internet is that there are thousands of pages of information available to both the homeowner and the professional, and much of it for free.  Now, my background is primarily in fish and wildlife biology and computers, and although I have done my share of carpentry, plumbing, wiring, painting, drywall, etc. over the years, I’m no expert on these things and don’t pretend to be.; I’m still very much a student. I am however very interested, and as such I receive a lot of information from various government and business organizations.  So I thought I’d take one day a week to share what’s been coming to me, with you.  I promise not to have a long preamble at the beginning of every ‘green’ post!

1) Greensburg, KS.  For those who are unaware, and those who’ve forgotten, in the spring of 2007 the town of Greensburg, Kansas was nearly obliterated from the map by a huge class 5 tornado.  Over 90% of the buildings were completely flattened and everyone was evacuated.  People weren’t allowed back into the town for several days afterward.  After the storms had settled, a town meeting was called to see what the residents wanted to do.  An idea was put forth, and it received great support from both the state and federal governments, to rebuild a ‘green’ town.  Construction is still ongoing, but several new buildings have been or are expected to be certified LEED Platinum, the old courthouse (one of two heritage buildings left standing) was completely renovated to LEED Gold, and even for those residents who couldn’t/can’t afford certification, green ideas and building techniques are still being implemented.  All of the electrical power for the town is coming from wind energy.  Anyway, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Program is hosting part 2 of a series on Greensburg, online on December 15, 2009, 12:00–1:30 PM EST.  The webinar is free, but registration is necessary.  For downloadable information on part 1 of the series and other webinars, vist the DOE’s website.

2) I receive several e-newsletters on environmental topics and on green building (most are interrelated) each week, and many of them are also available to view on the various company’s websites.  I’ll post the links here each week (in the order I receive them).

Environmental Design + Construction
Sundance Channel, Eco-mmunity
Healthy Building Network
World Resources Institute: Digest
Sustainable Facility e-News
The Sustainable Sites Initiative

Okay, that`s it for now!  Have a site to share?  Leave a comment here!