The City Energy Project: Better Buildings, Better Cities

Chicago City Hall Green Roof

Earlier this year, 10 mayors of large American cities announced a partnership with the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) and the Institute for Market Transformation in the new City Energy Project. The goal of the project is to improve large public and private-sector building energy efficiency to reduce energy use, and thus decrease city pollution and save residents and businesses money. If the project succeeds, the savings could reach $1 billion nationwide, and the hope is that these cities will act as a model for communities across the nation and the world.

But what …read more

Why I Walk: A Pedestrian Manifesto

Traffic Signal “Walk”, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pedestrian, the word evokes mundane thoughts. No surprise, as one of its two main meanings is “dull.” The other meaning is a person walking along a road or in a developed area, hardly inspiring either. This is partly because contemporary society views walking as a tedious task, something which we try to cut out of every day life with gadgets and infrastructure such as escalators or moving sidewalks. Most people prefer to take public transit, drive their cars, or ride their bikes (all faster modes of transportation). This is especially …read more

What Does the Future Hold for Energy Use in America?

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, AER Energy Perspectives and MER.

After declining for several years in a row, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions grew by 2% in 2013. This was largely due to an increase in the use of coal by electric power plants in the U.S., after a rise in the price of natural gas.

While this still left the U.S. 10% below 2005 levels, it is a move in the wrong direction. These findings follow President Obama’s recent second term push for national action on climate change, and call for an increase in the use of renewable energy …read more

“Hedonistic Sustainability”: How to Have Fun While Being Green

Confronting Comfort with Bjarke Ingels (Photo credit: BMW Guggenheim Lab)

When people think of environmental, green or eco-building projects they often imagine stripped down, minimalist structures, with interiors that are found lacking in functionality and comfort. But sustainable design does not have to be about giving things up and offering less to the user. Bjarke Ingels, of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), does just the opposite, with something he calls “hedonistic sustainability”.

A few years ago, BIG won an international competition to design a power plant that would convert human waste into energy in Copenhagen, Denmark. Ingels knew that the …read more

Things That Made Us Go “Hmmm…” in 2013

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2013 is coming to a close, and as another year passes us by, we pause to reflect, in the words of C+C Music Factory, on some of the things that made us go “Hmmm….” Following, in no particular order, is that list:

Winter 2013 in Zaatari refugee camp (Photo credit: Oxfam International)

1. Snow covers the ground in Egypt for the first time in 100 years. It was not only the worst snow storm to hit the Middle East in 50 years, but the snow and near freezing temperatures threatened thousands of Syrian refugees who lacked adequate shelter.

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Going Green in 2014

English: Kermit the Frog (Photo credit: Markus)

With less than 2 weeks left in 2013, lots of people are making New Year’s Resolutions in hopes of becoming better human beings. If you’re committed to Going Green in 2014 (that has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?) here are a few resources to make sure you stay on the energy efficient bandwagon.

For starters, you should probably know the definition of going green. According to Shauna Osborne, “Going green is a popular term used to describe the process of changing one’s lifestyle for the safety and benefit of the …read more

To Avoid Serious Damages of Climate Change We Need Intergovernmental Cooperation NOW!

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On September 27th the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first part of their report, called AR5, on “the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change.” More than 840 scientists convened in Stockholm to complete the report, and came to the conclusion that not only is climate change definitely happening, but that they are 95% sure that humans are the ones who should be held responsible. Additional sections of the report, to be released in 2014, will investigate …read more

Taking the Reigns: How Much Evidence Is Enough to Ignite Change?

On Wednesday, the journal of Environmental Science and Technology published a study that found high levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in the water and sediments downstream from a fracking wastewater plant on Blacklick Creek in western Pennsylvania. Sediment in the creek contained Radium in concentrations 200 times above normal, which are above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations and pose potential environmental risks. As reported in Bloomberg:

“The absolute levels that we found are much higher than what you allow in the U.S. for any place to dump radioactive material,” Avner Vengosh, a professor at the Nicholas School of …read more

Fire Threatens Water?

As a national parks enthusiast, I try to visit a new park at least every couple years. We visited Yosemite for the first time two weeks ago – yes, right around the time the Rim Fire broke out. At the time, the only signs of the blaze came from a road closer to the park’s Northwest entrance.

PHOTO: Hiking at White Wolf, miles from threatened sequoias at Tuolumne Grove

As the week went on, murmurs throughout the park began to increase, as did the smoke billowing into the sky that was visible from some of the park’s more …read more

Can America Be Energy Independent?

Fracking’s Radioactive Dumping Ground (Photo credit: Truthout.org)

The vision of an energy independent America has become a popular topic in the political arena. It has become part of the President’s platform, while media pundits tempt us with this dream. But can it actually happen?

Simply put, no. Unless the President decided to nationalize all of America’s energy companies, energy independence is something that could never exist in a free-market capitalist system. Yet we constantly hear about the plethora of energy options that big energy companies are moving forward to create an energy independent America.

It is one big marketing …read more