Here on LGBG we talk, rather frequently, on the intertwined relationship of the green movement and housing development. What we have not mentioned however is how to finance potential green improvements to your home. That is, not until now.
I recently came across an article in the English paper The Telegraph which detailed how some U.K. residents are taking out “Green Loans” to improve energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of their homes. In the United States, homeowners often take out a Home Equity Loan in order to make improvements to their house, which ultimately may increase the value of the house when it comes time to put it on the market. Home Equity Loans are typically used to add an extension to your house, or to create a finished basement. Now however, one has the ability to obtain a Green Loan in order to reduce emissions, and create greater energy efficiency while subsequently adding to the aforementioned value of the homeowner’s residence; so long as the house is inspected by a Green Deal assessor.
These assessors, who work for the government, “…Provide home owners with reports containing a list of possible improvements, and how much these will cost against estimated annual savings on gas and electricity bills.” The rationale is that, despite having to pay for the home improvements (which may cost tens of thousands of dollars) homeowners are better off in the long-run as energy usage will be more efficient, and the resulting green friendly label of the house will aid in boosting the building’s value.
I have no doubt that obtaining a Green Loan to improve the carbon footprint of one’s house is, on the whole, mutually beneficially in the long-run. Yet, banks and lenders also have a responsibility not to take advantage of would-be borrowers by charging exorbitant interest rates, or making the terms and conditions of the loan onerous to pay. Governments can positively influence green behavior by providing subsidies for borrowers who are looking to green-proof their homes directly (which already happens to a certain extent when homeowners purchase solar-panels for example and receive a tax credit) or indirectly to banks by providing them incentives, such as lowering reserve requirements, to lend out money at a low interest rates. Similarly, checks and balances need to be put in place so that borrowers are indeed using the loan to modify their house in green ways and not to pay off other debts or in ways otherwise non-tangential to improving energy efficiency in one’s home. In this way, both banks and borrowers win in the mutual goal of reducing homeowners’ carbon footprints, while also helping to promote a future in which we all live green, and be green.
Here at livegreenbegreen, we are always searching for new and inventive ways to maintain a green lifestyle. So when I came across this article which detailed the environmental effects of our deaths, my interest peaked to say the least.
The article, written by Yuan Gao and Robert Short, describes the environmental problem our passing’s cause as, “Every cremation creates about 160 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2).” This is a particular problem in China where nearly five million bodies were cremated in 2011 alone. More staggering is that the rate of cremation is increasing due to the aging population, which ultimately will result in an estimated 143,066 tons of additional CO2 being emitted. This figure fails to mention the other pollutions that will be released as a result of the process including, “…Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, monoxide, hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, and mercury among others.”
Thankfully, the authors propose greener options to combat this growing problem. They advocate, “Burying the corpse in a simple and biodegradable bag or container under a tree, without building stone tombs or erecting tombstones.” This ultimately would save valuable land space in addition to reducing the emissions from a cremation alternative. Also, the additive of placing the bodies near trees enables them to absorb CO2 that naturally emits from the decaying body and enables them to grow naturally and sustainably. Lastly, this practice saves wood for those buried in wood coffins, and makes ecological sense in that our bodies, in an act of retribution, serve as a natural fertilizer for the earth we used during our lifetimes.
While we tend to focus on changing our current habits to affect the world in a positive place, similarly our posthumous actions can have a lasting impact on our environment. By changing the way we think, we can all have a positive bearing on our planet both during our lifetime, and after death.
This Monday’s good green news features 350.org. This global organization, led by author and environmentalist, Bill McKibben, focuses on global grassroots efforts to raise awareness of climate change caused by human impact, to confront climate change denial and to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, all in an effort to slow global warming. The group’s name derives from climate scientist, James Hansen‘s, assertion that any atmospheric concentration over 350 parts per million is unsafe. Rather than being one organization, 350.org is a global network of over 200 organizations around the world.
A primary feature of 350.org is its 350 workshop. This group has helped organize workshops in more than 20 countries. The staff members assist climate change campaigns in the development of skill building activities that effectively articulate their points. They focus on leadership, organization and communication as the key components necessary to build the political will to solve the climate crises. They help local green groups to organize marches, to participate in non-violent demonstrations in the Middle East, and to lobby political leaders on matters relative to climate change and clean energy. Their primary goal is to utilize a worldwide approach to create a huge wave of climate activism globally that cannot be ignored and will lead to lasting large-scale changes.
Each year 350.org identifies key campaigns of concern. Its current projects include moving India beyond coal, ending fossil fuel subsidies and showing the human face of climate change. 350.org boasts a very user-friendly website loaded with information on its organization’s mission, projects and available workshops. The website also provides access to membership, as well as an opportunity to donate to help this worthy cause finance its missions. 350.org leads by example in the movement to fight climate change and to save the planet. This organization presents a great opportunity to live green, be green.
Grassroots networking to fight climate change
Living in New York, and more specifically for the past four years in New York City, air quality was always a concern. Whether it was the plumes of smog or the beautiful eminence that was city bus exhaust, breathing felt more like a chore than anything else. That being said, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) just released its newest report of its top twenty “toxic” states according to emissions in the US sector from the year 2010. Pollution statistics were broken down by state into their most prevalent types i.e coal in Ohio. To our delight, the study found a, “9 percent decrease in all air toxins emitted from power plants in 2010, in comparison to 2009 levels.” This was due in large part because of the emphasis on clean energy, and more specifically natural gas. Comparably, the top two states occupying the list, Kentucky and Ohio, ranked so highly because the majority of their emissions were in the form of coal-fired power plants. So take a look and see how your state ranks, if at all, on the “Toxic Twenty”, and be sure to check out the NRDC report below.
The “Toxic Twenty″ list (from worst to best) are:
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
NRDC report: http://www.nrdc.org/air/files/toxic-power-presentation.pdf
We repeatedly hear the term “global warming”. The very subject usually produces arguments by some that it truly exists and by others that it is a myth. Proponents of the argument for global warming identify melting glaciers, rising sea levels, dying cloud forests and changing habits of wildlife as proof that global warming is occurring. Antagonists of this concept cite historical cyclical temperature changes and the resulting wind and storm patterns as proof that global warming is a myth. In fact, the average global temperatures and concentrations of carbon dioxide have fluctuated cyclically for hundreds of thousands of years. These fluctuations occur with the Earth’s changing positions relative to the sun.
During prior cycles, emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere were balanced by GHGs that were naturally absorbed by the land and water. This balance enabled human civilization to develop in a consistent climate. There were periods of interruptions to this balance—volcanic eruptions that emitted particles, which cooled the Earth’s surface and El Nino, which has its own short and predictable cycles. Something different is happening now and is occurring on a large, consistently measured level. Humans have increased the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a level 33 percent higher since the industrial revolution. Historically, changes of this magnitude resulted over thousands of years. They now are occurring at this rate over mere decades. Such a rapid rise in greenhouse gases pose unique challenges to life, forcing many living things to be able to adapt.
While environmentalists use the term “global warming”, scientists refer to this phenomenon as “climate change”. As the Earth’s temperature climbs, wind and ocean currents travel in patterns that cool some areas while warming others. Additionally, the amounts of snowfalls and rainfalls are impacted. Global warming or climate change is of concern because it produces extreme weather, ranging from severe storms to extended droughts. This, in turn, poses challenges for all living creatures in terms of food supply, water supply, and threat to life from severe conditions.
We can control the emission of greenhouse gases through green living. To save our planet, let’s live green, be green.
While browsing the Internet this morning, I discovered an interesting article on the impact of the food industry on the environment. This article features commentary by Arlin Wasserman, Chair of the Sustainable Business Leadership Council at the Culinary Institute of America. Wasserman acknowledges the food industry’s inability to show environmental improvement, its lack of transparency, and the failure of some leading companies to alter the status quo. He states that these issues create an incongruence with both the younger generation and the overall population, who are becoming more enlightened regarding the need to grow and harvest food in a more soundly manner.
This article lists some very relevant statistics regarding the agricultural industry:
- Farming and ranching accounts for 40% of arable land in the world.
- Farming and ranching uses 30% to 70% of fresh water.
- Approximately 50% of greenhouse emissions can be attributed to farming and ranching.
- Second only to oil, coffee is one of the most valuable legally traded commodities worldwide.
- Half of the food produced globally is wasted due to improper harvesting and storage.
A major concern voiced by Wasserman is the change that has taken place regarding consumers’ relationship with food consumption and preparation. We now rely on restaurants, carryouts and delicatessens for the majority of our meals. This phenomenon results in fewer people even knowing how to cook or being informed about the sources of food or the ingredients used in meal preparations.
With his work with the Culinary Institute of Art, Mr. Wasserman aims to address problems with the food industry. This organization strives to implement better decisionmaking about health, selection of food and our relationship and impact on the environment . Hopefully, with the help of emerging associations such as Culinary Institute of Art, we can live green, be green.