Archive for the ‘Green Economy’ Category
June 14th, 2009
Major League Baseball teams have been working hard these last couple of years to get better, faster, stronger and greener. In the spring of 2008, the MLB and NRDC partnered up to help major league teams become more sustainable, waste less, reduce energy use and educate their fans. The new effort is due to a number of interwoven factors, like concern for the environment, money savings, and a sense of responsibility to to their fans. Major League players and teams have hero status anyways, so it’s no surprise that many teams are proving to be excellent examples of eco-warriors.
Popularity: 7% [?]
June 13th, 2009
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” — Rahm Emanuel
Given our current economic and environmental challenges it might be difficult to appreciate all of the hidden opportunities that are present, but identify and capitalize on them we should.
One such opportunity is to make use of more time and less money by making a critical and financially savvy investment—in your health. While the stock and real estate markets are as tempestuous as Alec Baldwin, your health is one investment that offers considerable dividends—and it’s probably greener than any other investment you can make.
Even if you have insurance (or have insurance at the moment), even the best plan doesn’t pay for everything. And chronic illnesses that are often lifestyle-related such as diabetes or high blood pressure demand out of pocket expenditures that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
According to the American Heart Association, around 250,000 deaths annually in the U.S. are due to a lack of regular physical activity. And if death doesn’t scare you, perhaps the cost of being unhealthy or becoming chronically ill does. For example, 2002 per capita medical costs totaled $13,243 for people with diabetes. (http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/3/917.full)
Additional Health Affairs studies showed that between 1987 and 2002, “…a person with hypertension added $1,600 to annual spending and diabetes added $3,600. In patients with coronary heart disease, hypertension added an additional $1,900 and diabetes added $3,300.” And this doesn’t even count the cost in loss productivity and wages, which can also be considerable. Being sick can cost more annually than a fabulous African safari, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be seeing galloping giraffes on the savanna than not-so-garrulous nurses at my bedside pricking me with needles.
Increasing your level of fitness can yield considerable returns, whether you embark on an ambitious fitness plan or simply start walking more and driving less. If you’re thinking that you don’t have the money to join a health club, how about walking or riding a bike? The incidence of heart disease and other ailments is much lower in car-free Venice. Experts believe it’s no mere coincidence that residents of this ancient, watery city can’t drive their cars to dinner or the grocery store. They’ve got to walk up and down stairs and bridges to go anywhere.
Via small steps (pardon the pun), you can gradually alter your lifestyle, improve your fitness and reduce your carbon imprint. Taking the stairs at the office instead of the elevator, walking instead of driving to conduct errands, using a backpack and biking when doing light grocery shopping or biking to work don’t represent major lifestyle changes but can have an eventual positive affect in all of these areas.
In my family, a post-dinner stroll around the neighborhood is a long-standing tradition. Particularly after a holiday meal, such a jaunt helps digest a meal, lower blood pressure, and burn calories. And done regularly, a walk can offer a sort of therapy that CNN or the slickest flat screen TV can’t begin to offer.
Of course, there’s a green angle to taking care of yourself. Hospitals are notorious energy hogs, and medical waste is sometimes toxic and nearly always hazardous. In addition, all of those medicines we ingest are turning up in our lakes, rivers, oceans and water supplies, creating five-legged frogs and tainted drinking water.
Finally, improving our nutrition is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Eating less meat which is often expensive, anyway, and maybe even growing some of our own herbs and vegetables offer a chance to eat better, get a little exercise, grow something locally and reduce our carbon output by purchasing fewer foods that have to travel a great distance.
Scads of studies show that people that avoid becoming overweight and engage in regular exercise have fewer health issues later in life. While investing in gold, the stock market or bonds comes with risk and uncertainty, investing in your health and fitness comes with little risk and great reward. So this recession, look for a silver lining and consider making an investment which is likely to have long term financial and ecological payoffs—improving your health.
Popularity: 2% [?]
June 12th, 2009
Green-collar workers — who include everyone from energy-efficiency consultants to wastewater plant operators — constitute a tiny but fast-growing segment of the U.S. economy, according to a study published today by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The “clean-energy economy” grew 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007 to 777,000 jobs. While that is just half a percent of all U.S. jobs, the clean-energy economy is poised to grow significantly with financial support from the public and private sectors, the Pew report concludes.
“The nation’s clean-energy economy is poised for explosive growth,” said Lori Grange, the Pew Center on the States’ interim deputy director. “The trends include surging venture capital investment … a critical growth rate in clean-energy generation, energy efficiency and environmentally friendly products.”
About 80 percent of venture capital investments in 2008 were in the clean energy and energy efficiency sector, broadly known as “cleantech.” And while cleantech slumped with overall venture capital in the first quarter of 2009, the sector outperformed telecommunications, media and other sectors, according to an analysis of Thompson Reuters data by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.
“[Cleantech] is faring better than the rest of the venture capital sectors — that’s driven by the sense that the government policy thinking has changed radically with the new administration,” said David Prend, a NVCA director and managing general partner at the venture capital firm RockPort Capital Partners.
Indeed, the Pew report cites the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Obama signed in February, as a significant force driving the clean-energy economy. The stimulus includes nearly $85 billion in direct spending and tax incentives for energy- and transportation-related programs.
The report finds that job growth in the clean-energy economy outperformed total job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia between 1998 and 2007, the most recent year for which data are available. The total number of jobs grew 3.7 percent during that period, which included the dot-com boom and bust and the beginning of the current recession.
Popularity: 5% [?]
June 11th, 2009
I recently had the good fortune of participating in a New York Times piece (published in the Home section today) on green home consultants. After a few hours of in-home work and many more of analysis, reporting, product research and follow-up with my clients, it was somewhat ironic that the lead image for the story was a picture of me peering into the tank of a toilet!
One could argue a toilet is a fitting representation of our times, after all. The economy remains in the tank, we continue to do relatively little as a society to combat climate change, and the residential green sector continues to dragged down by the horrible housing market (unless you happen to be in one of the few sectors directly benefiting from stimulus funding).
However, we still see a very bright future for the overall green remodeling/retrofit market. The lowest hanging fruit on the path to a lower-carbon economy lie in our homes, from weatherization to low-flow water fixtures to efficient appliances and lighting. The environmental savings can be significant, and many projects will start contributing to your bank account in less than a year. Although each of our individual actions might be a drop in the bucket (as noted by some of the skeptical folks interviewed in the Times article), our collective actions will amount to significant change and send a message to both companies and our elected officials that the old way won’t work anymore.
The first step is getting started, of course, and a good green consultant can help by explaining both the environmental and economic benefits of particular green projects. Even with that information, a long list of recommendations can be pretty hard to digest. As a result, we always recommend that projects be tiered in a way that puts the ones where you get the most bang for your buck first. Tackle green projects in these four groups, and we guarantee that you’ll soon be on a logical and profitable path to a lower impact:
- Make the easy fixes that have high environmental and economic benefits first. Many first steps can be done for $0 - $100, and can cut major chunks out of your energy, water and carbon footprints. Good examples include turning down the temperature on your water heater, replacing inefficient lighting, installing low-flow water fixtures, sealing leaks and drafts and installing a programmable thermostat.
- Swap out key house systems, starting with the biggest hogs and/or systems that have multiple impacts. Once you’ve cut your baseline down based on #1, turn to these bigger projects. Great places to start are the water heater and furnace, since they influence the energy use of everything downstream, and the clothes washer, since it consumes both water and energy and produces greenhouse gases and wastewater.
- Install sustainable systems where possible for remaining water/energy needs. By now, you’ve probably cut your energy, water and sewer bills by 30-50%. But there’s a huge added benefit to this tiering of projects: you’ve also reduced the cost of major sustainble system upgrades. These projects, like solar panels, solar hot water heaters, wind turbines, graywater systems and rainwater capture/reuse systems, will be as much as 50% less expensive if they follow the projects in Tiers 1 and 2!
- Offset the rest. In most existing homes, it’s nearly impossible to competely cut your outside energy use and associated carbon footprint. Buy offsets for this remaining piece. We believe it’s always best to cut your own carbon footprint first rather than paying someone else to do it via offsets, but they’re a great solution for those stubborn emissions that elude even the most eco-committed of us.
Of course, a consultant isn’t necessary for any of this. Many websites offer great resources to help you sort through the options. And many online tools like our Environmental Impact Calculator can help you estimate the savings of green home projects, both environmental and economic, so that you can create a prioritized list based on your home’s unique characteristics.
Oh, back to the toilets. Toilet leaks can be huge water guzzlers, and I see leaks in as many as 10% of the homes that I visit. In this case, though, they were in perfect working order!
Popularity: 2% [?]
June 3rd, 2009
There has certainly been a lot of media coverage on the growing array of “green jobs.” That is a pretty broad term– encompassing renewable energy, green building, bio-fuels, energy-efficiency technologies and much more. All of these sectors have been affected by the larger global economic challenges we are facing, but there’s little doubt that in the long run these industries will offer many new employment opportunities.
So, where can you find these green jobs?
Fortunately there is a ton of resources available online. It seems like a new green jobs board crops up almost every day! Here is our review of the leading sources:
- Green Dream Jobs is one of the best job boards out there. They have a good cross-section of low to high level jobs spanning many industries. They’ve been at it since 1996 so they know what they’re doing!
- EcoEmploy is another good resources. They tend to have more technical job listings, as well as some non-profit positions.
- Treehugger has a strong job board. You’ll find traditional as well as some “zany” listings– like “deli staff and cyclist” or “adventure planner.” Fun!
- GreenBiz.com also has a job list with solid geographic reach.
- VentureLoop is a site I find most people don’t know about–which is too bad. This is a site that features jobs from companies that are backed by major venture capital outlets. There are technical, sales, marketing and management positions in the mix. Not all of the jobs are green jobs, but there are many exciting, high-growth green companies included on the job board. You just need to do a bit of reading about the companies.
- SustainLane recently launched a green job board and we’ve seen some good listings there. They are still growing and adding more cities.
- SolarJobs can be good if you’re specifically interested in that industry.
- Idealist.org is great if you want to find environmental non-profit jobs.
If you know of other good resources, please share them in the comments section.
Also, if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, there is a great event coming up called Green Jobs, Healthy Communities: Building a Green-Collar Economy. They event is being hosted by the California Endowment on June 9 at 6PM. Learn more about the event here.
Popularity: 4% [?]