5 key benefits of green buildings on the environment and your lifestyle

February 21, 2019 by  
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The importance of buildings in society and everyday human life can’t be underestimated. They are the center of just about everything we do — from work to play — and for most people living without them is unimaginable. However, traditional structures are damaging the environment and green buildings just might be one of the most powerful tools we can develop in the fight against climate change . According to National Geographic , by 2050 nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas . Even though the cities of the world cover just two percent of Earth’s land area, they are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions  — with nearly one-third of those emissions coming from buildings. Those numbers are the result of traditional construction, and the exciting thing is green buildings could drastically change things. Already, green buildings in the United States have reduced CO2 emissions by 34 percent. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials What are green buildings? There is no specific standard for green buildings , but some of the features are energy efficiency, less water usage, better indoor air quality, improved acoustics and green roof systems. Those goals can be achieved via various methods including using alternative energy sources like solar panels, high-efficiency light fixtures and natural light, not to mention, incorporating sustainable and eco-friendly building materials into the design. But the benefits of green buildings are not just limited improving the environment, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to green buildings and their extensive benefits. Green buildings save money The initial construction costs for a green building might be a bit higher, but they are cheaper to operate and maintain, which ultimately makes them a good long term investment. According to the California Sustainable Building Task Force, a two percent investment in green design will save you more than ten times that investment in the long run.  So, if you have a $1 million building project and invested $20,000 in green design, it will lead to $200,000 in savings over 20 years. Using renewable energy sources significantly reduces the cost of power, heating and cooling, making maintenance costs 20 percent lower than traditional buildings. In general, the resale value of green buildings is higher because potential buyers know that their utility costs will be lower than normal. Federal tax incentives are also available for both residential and commercial green buildings, with many local and state governments following suit. Related: Potato peels offer a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials Extensive environmental benefits This is the most expected benefit of green buildings, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. The reduced energy consumption, water conservation, lower emissions and reduced waste from green buildings is invaluable to the fight against climate change. Physical and mental health At first, the green building concept was all about reducing environmental impact.  But now, studies have shown that working in a green building is good for both physical and mental health, and this has led to many building developers adding space for health and wellness activities. Many green buildings create an environment for better physical activity by using vacant areas for green spaces, yoga studios and gyms, making bike racks more accessible, or adding things like massage chairs and sleep chambers to reduce stress, boost job satisfaction and cut down on absenteeism. Another growing trend in green buildings is better use of staircases. For decades, architects have hidden staircases so well that you can’t even find them in some buildings. But now, staircases are coming back and this means workers are taking more steps every day. Employee perception of green buildings is that they are cleaner and better maintained, and the use of non-toxic chemicals and better ventilation has led to a reduction in sick building syndrome . According to the EPA, poor air quality and indoor pollutants in non-green buildings have caused some lung cancer deaths and many cases of asthma. Increased productivity A UCLA study showed that employees who work in green buildings were 16 percent more productive than those who work in traditional buildings. Study author Professor Magali Delmas says employees in green buildings and those who adopt green practices are “more motivated, received more training, and benefit from better interpersonal relationships.” A Harvard study also showed that employees in green buildings were better at making decisions and reaching goals. Also, including green elements in a building led to a higher level of perceived well being and better task completion. Happy employees Engineering consulting firm Cundall found during a survey that green elements like eco-friendly flooring, green views, improved acoustics and better air quality led to the attraction of more workers, improved employee retention and also made employees prouder of their workplace. In the previously mentioned Harvard study, it also found that better lighting design in a building — natural light, LED, task lighting, dimmers — has helped circadian rhythms, which means you sleep better at night. Ditching fluorescent lighting and opting for energy-efficient lighting in green buildings also made occupants happier and more productive. Via BigRentz Images via Shutterstock

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5 key benefits of green buildings on the environment and your lifestyle

Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline

January 15, 2019 by  
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After a solid decline for the past three years, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States rose in 2018. According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), power generation, natural gas and oil consumption resulted in an emissions increase of 3.4 percent, marking the second largest annual gain since 1996. The only year that emissions increased at a more significant rate was 2010, when emissions went up 3.6 percent after a huge recession-driven decline the year before. Even though a record number of coal-fired power plants closed last year, natural gas replaced the majority of the lost generation rather than instead renewables — and also fed the demand for electricity growth. The result of using natural gas over renewables meant a 1.9 percent increase in power sector emissions. However, the biggest source of emissions for the third year in a row was the transportation sector due to the growing demand for diesel and jet fuel that offset a noticeable decline in gasoline consumption. Related: University of Waterloo has created a CO2 powder which could help fight climate change Because of unusual cold weather in the beginning of 2018, the building and industrial sectors also showed significant emissions gains. But, there has also been very little progress in these sectors when it comes to decarbonization strategies. In the United States, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels peaked back in 2007 at approximately 6 billion tons, but thanks to the great recession and the switch in power generation from coal to natural gas, wind and solar, emissions fell by 12.1 percent (an average of 1.6 percent per year) between 2007 and 2015. Yet in the last couple of years the pace of emissions decline has slowed down. Not to mention, the lack of a proper climate change policy will leave the U.S. at risk of putting the Paris Agreement reduction goals (26-28 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2025) out of reach. + Rhodium Group Image via cwizner

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Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline

California’s "Skip the Slip" bill pushes for digital receipts

January 15, 2019 by  
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A legislator in the California Assembly has introduced a bill that, if passed, would require retailers to make digital receipts the default instead of paper. California Assemblymember Phil Ting (D – San Francisco) has introduced AB 161 , nicknamed “Skip the Slip.” If it becomes law, it would be the first of its kind in the United States. According to Green America , each year up to 10 million trees in the U.S. are used to make the paper for receipts, and the process takes 21 billion gallons of water. The receipts also produce a ton of waste — nearly 686 million pounds. If the state of California decides to skip the paper receipts, it will save 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of one million cars on the road. Related: 86% of teens in study have traces of BPA in their bodies In recent years, paper receipts have gotten longer and longer, thanks to the addition of coupons and member rewards programs. The length is not the only problem. According to the Ecology Center, approximately 93 percent of paper receipts are coated with BPA or BPS to help make them legible. Green America said, “When we touch receipts, the chemical coating is absorbed into our bodies through our hands in mere seconds.” There are documented connections between BPA and developmental and neurological problems. Researchers at the New York State Department of Health said that BPA also impacts fetal development, and it is linked to reproductive problems, type 2 diabetes and thyroid conditions. Beth Porter, Green America’s climate and recycling director, said that this new legislation would prevent millions of trees from being logged for paper receipts, and it will make California a leader on the issue. Some innovative companies are already doing their part to lessen the environmental impact and reduce the health risks that come with paper receipts. Businesses like Best Buy, Starbucks and Whole Foods Market are already offering digital receipts, and card readers for smartphones are also offering paperless transactions. + AB 161 Via Treehugger and  Green America Image via Shutterstock

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California’s "Skip the Slip" bill pushes for digital receipts

Exxon aims to cut methane emissions 15% by 2020

May 23, 2018 by  
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ExxonMobil isn’t typically known for climate action , but the world’s biggest publicly traded oil and gas company is now fighting climate change with greenhouse gas reduction measures. The oil and gas giant recently announced measures to lower greenhouse gas emissions , including a 15 percent drop in methane emissions , in an effort to address climate change. To slash methane emissions, Exxon is drawing on multiple initiatives, one of which is leak-detection-and-repair efforts at XTO Energy , an Exxon subsidiary focused on shale . According to the company, operational improvements at production and midstream sites in the United States, combined with the leak-detection-and-repair efforts, have lowered methane emissions by around two percent in the last year. Exxon thinks it will reach the 15 percent target with these initiatives and “additional measures outside the U.S. focused on the most significant sources of methane.” Exxon also aims for a 25 percent reduction in natural gas flaring ; it believes the most significant reductions will happen in West Africa. Related: New Exxon CEO supports Paris climate deal, carbon tax The oil and gas company describes itself as “the most energy efficient refining company in the U.S. and internationally.” It said it has reached “a 10 percent improvement in energy efficiency” across “global refining operations” after launching an effort in 2000, and that it invests in lower-emission energy solutions such as biofuels , cogeneration, and carbon capture and storage. CEO Darren Woods said in their statement, “We have a longstanding commitment to improve efficiency and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s announcement builds on that commitment and will help further drive improvements in our business.” Almost two-thirds of greenhouse gases released during the last 150 years originated from 90 companies . Exxon was in the top 10, according to a 2013 study from Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute; he blames the companies for most climate change . + ExxonMobil Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Exxon aims to cut methane emissions 15% by 2020

EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

April 25, 2018 by  
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Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new policy which will classify the burning of wood as a ‘carbon neutral’ fuel source. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled this policy shift to an audience of timber industry leaders in Georgia, who have a vested interest in whether they can market wood-based fuel products as ‘green energy.’ Pruitt supported his decision by claiming that forest regrowth will lead to greater absorption of carbon dioxide and somehow counteract the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation and burning wood. Scientists, none of whom were consulted in this policy change, disagree. “Today’s announcement grants America’s foresters much-needed certainty and clarity with respect to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass,” Pruitt said in a  press release . A study published by British think-tank Chatham House concluded that when all emissions and carbon absorption is accounted for, harvesting energy from burning wood produces carbon pollution equivalent to that of coal . Further, using this method of energy to create steam may be 50 percent more carbon intensive than coal. Scientist William Moomaw, who focuses on forests and their role in climate change, told Mashable that the policy was announced with “zero consultation” of agency scientists or the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. “It’s a bad idea because anything that has carbon in it produces carbon dioxide when you burn it,” Moomaw said. “This is horrific.” Related: Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them The EPA’s decision to inaccurately classify burning wood as carbon neutral may have global consequences. “Between this and the Europeans [who constitute the largest market for bioenergy], it means no chance of staying within the 2-degree limit,” Moomaw explained. Even if the forests do grow back to their original state, the damage will already be done. “The carbon dioxide in the air will have warmed the planet. … When the tree regrows, the glacier doesn’t regrow,” Moomaw said. “The climate change effects are irreversible. Carbon neutrality is not climate neutrality.” Via Mashable Images via Depositphotos (1)

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EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

April 25, 2018 by  
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Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new policy which will classify the burning of wood as a ‘carbon neutral’ fuel source. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled this policy shift to an audience of timber industry leaders in Georgia, who have a vested interest in whether they can market wood-based fuel products as ‘green energy.’ Pruitt supported his decision by claiming that forest regrowth will lead to greater absorption of carbon dioxide and somehow counteract the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation and burning wood. Scientists, none of whom were consulted in this policy change, disagree. “Today’s announcement grants America’s foresters much-needed certainty and clarity with respect to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass,” Pruitt said in a  press release . A study published by British think-tank Chatham House concluded that when all emissions and carbon absorption is accounted for, harvesting energy from burning wood produces carbon pollution equivalent to that of coal . Further, using this method of energy to create steam may be 50 percent more carbon intensive than coal. Scientist William Moomaw, who focuses on forests and their role in climate change, told Mashable that the policy was announced with “zero consultation” of agency scientists or the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. “It’s a bad idea because anything that has carbon in it produces carbon dioxide when you burn it,” Moomaw said. “This is horrific.” Related: Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them The EPA’s decision to inaccurately classify burning wood as carbon neutral may have global consequences. “Between this and the Europeans [who constitute the largest market for bioenergy], it means no chance of staying within the 2-degree limit,” Moomaw explained. Even if the forests do grow back to their original state, the damage will already be done. “The carbon dioxide in the air will have warmed the planet. … When the tree regrows, the glacier doesn’t regrow,” Moomaw said. “The climate change effects are irreversible. Carbon neutrality is not climate neutrality.” Via Mashable Images via Depositphotos (1)

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EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

173 countries agree to slash shipping industry emissions in historic deal

April 13, 2018 by  
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Shipping was the sole industry excluded from the 2015 Paris Agreement , even though the sector’s annual carbon emissions are higher than those of Germany  — and countries now plan to address that. 173 nations just agreed to a historic, mandatory deal to slash shipping industry emissions . Related: World’s first autonomous shipping company launched in Norway One week of negotiations at an International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting in London yielded this landmark deal. Envoys of 173 countries agreed to reduce emissions at least 50 percent from 2008 levels by 2050. Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States objected. Shipping vessels tend to burn fuel oil, which is cheap but also one of the dirtiest fossil fuels . According to Bloomberg , the industry didn’t factor into the Paris agreement because each participating country presented its own plans to curb emissions, excluding the seas. University College London Energy Institute reader Tristan Smith told Bloomberg, “It is likely this target will tighten further, but even with the lowest level of ambition, the shipping industry will require rapid technological changes.” BREAKING: Commitment to decarbonise shipping is welcome – governments can no longer shirk decisions on how to cut ship GHG emissions https://t.co/7Bh4pWIO04 pic.twitter.com/mEp3t36zSM — Transport & Environment (@transenv) April 13, 2018 “Making new ships emit less CO2 is the most obvious way to decarbonize the sector because ships have long lifetimes, usually around 25 to 30 years,” shipping officer Faig Abbasov of European NGO Transport & Environment told Bloomberg. “If you don’t build ships more efficiently, those ships will still be sailing around in the middle of the century.” As with the Paris Agreement , some people are saying this new deal doesn’t go far enough. A statement from the Clean Shipping Coalition (of which Transport & Environment is a member) said the target set “falls short of the 70 to 100 percent cut by 2050 that is needed to align shipping with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” Transport & Environment shipping director Bill Hemmings said, “The IMO should and could have gone a lot further but for the dogmatic opposition of some countries led by Brazil, Panama, Saudi Arabia. Scant attention was paid to US opposition.” + Clean Shipping Coalition Statement Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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173 countries agree to slash shipping industry emissions in historic deal

New 3 in 1 Roof solar tiles power your house for half the price of a Tesla roof

April 13, 2018 by  
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Tesla is getting all the attention when it comes to solar roofs , but some competitors out there are innovating in ways that even Elon Musk hasn’t thought of. 3 in 1 Roof , for instance, offers insulation, extreme wind protection and solar power, all in one. The solar roof system comes in a huge range of finishes, has a lighter load than traditional slate tiles, and is the first to claim zero heat transference into the attic – so it reduces your heating and cooling costs while providing you with clean, green energy. All at about half of the price of a Tesla solar roof. The Ft. Lauderdale-based company calculates that its offering will be about $11 less than Tesla’s solar roof per square foot. It’s also lighter than traditional slate roofing at just 110 pounds per 10 square feet, which means that architects can engineer homes with structures designed to support lighter loads. The roofs are designed to eliminate condensation between the attic deck and insulation, preventing mold and rot. The roofs are also hurricane resistant, standing up to winds at 200 mph. Related: Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof Because of the highly UV-resistant surface and durable foam insulation, 3 in 1 Roofs should last 300% longer than traditional products and can save you up to 38% on your HVAC costs. If you want to nab one, the company is accepting $500 deposits and guarantees it will be ready for installation in 2019 – or you get your deposit, plus $500 back. You can also get a free car station charger if you are one of the first 1,000 to place an order. + 3 in 1 Roof

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New 3 in 1 Roof solar tiles power your house for half the price of a Tesla roof

EPA set to repeal Obama-era rules for cleaner cars

April 2, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to undo Obama -era greenhouse gas emission regulations and fuel economy standards that were designed to encourage the development of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will likely describe the move as a necessary lifting of burdensome regulations on automakers and to support the production of cheaper vehicles, but it doesn’t account for the costs of increased air pollution and continued climate change. Left in place, the rules would have reduced oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels while reducing carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of vehicles produced under the regulations. The rules that are set to be rolled back under the Trump Administration were created in 2012 as one of President Obama’s major initiatives to combat climate change . If allowed to be fully implemented, the rules would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Some worry that the United States ‘s decision to step away from stricter emissions standards could set a dangerous precedent around the world. “The concern is that automakers will go around the world basically trying to lobby regulators, saying, look, because the United States has reduced the pace, everywhere else should too,” Anup Bandivadekar, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the New York Times . Related: Congress rejects Trump’s renewable energy budget cuts While American automakers had initially lobbied the Trump Administration for more relaxed standards, they did not expect to see a complete repeal of the rules. “We didn’t ask for that,” claimed Robert Bienenfeld , assistant vice president for environment and energy strategy at American Honda Motor. “The position we outlined was sensible.” In a blog post, Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett wrote that “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” The relaxed standards proposed by automakers were viewed as less likely to cause a showdown with California and the dozen other states that follow its lead on strict environmental standards. Now, California is preparing for battle. “We’re going to defend first and foremost existing federal greenhouse gas standards,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the New York Times . “We’re defending them because they’re good for the entire nation. No one should think it’s easy to undo something that’s been not just good for the country, but good for the planet .” Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos  and the White House

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EPA set to repeal Obama-era rules for cleaner cars

China reports meeting its 2020 carbon intensity goals three years early

March 28, 2018 by  
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Xie Zhenhua, China ‘s top climate official, has reported that the country has met its 2020 carbon intensity target three years earlier than expected. China’s carbon intensity, as measured by the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of economic growth, has decreased by 46 percent since 2005. Such changes in China’s energy economy bode well for a global community that is struggling to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement . If China, the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, can continue its progress towards a carbon-free economy, the nation of nearly 1.5 billion may be well-positioned to support other countries in their efforts to stop catastrophic climate change. In 2009, China set its goal of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent of its 2005 carbon levels. This initial concession towards a less carbon -intense economy helped to set the stage for the successful negotiations of the Paris Agreement. At the time, China also made a commitment to set up a national cap-and-trade system by which emissions would be reduced through market forces. Thus far, it has been unable to establish a functional emissions market. Related: Less fertilizer, greater crop yields, and more money: China’s agricultural breakthrough The cap-and-trade system has also been hindered by technical difficulties and a lack of reliable emissions data. The current scheme, which launched in late 2017, involves only the power sector. As the country attempts to develop its cap-and-trade regime, it also must confront challenges created by a major bureaucratic change that transferred the responsibility for climate change from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. “It is questionable whether in the short term [the new ministry] can be elevated in status and power to the extent that it will be able quickly to assume the influential role that the NDRC occupied in the area of climate change ,” Peter Corne, a managing partner at the Shanghai legal firm Dorsey & Whitney, told Reuters . Nonetheless, China is making progress and that is good news for all of us. Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1)

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China reports meeting its 2020 carbon intensity goals three years early

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