And we are failing our planet miserably.
JFK once said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Well some wise folks at Commvault have remixed this to “Ask not what your planet can do for you. Ask what you can do for your planet.”
In the spirit of doing things for our planet, I began to poke around the internet to see what events we might be able to celebrate throughout the year to raise awareness about the plight we have created for our planet. From dying bees that threaten to be a massive example of our society shooting itself in the foot, to super polluters continuing to wreak their destruction on our environment, we really aren’t doing a great job at taking the health of our planet seriously. The best way to get our shit together is to realize that we have a problem in the first place. In that spirit, here is a wonderful list of events throughout the year which designed to raise awareness about the environment courtesy of the Eco Warrior Princess!
- January – VEGANUARY
- 20 – PENGUIN AWARENESS DAY
- 2 – WORLD WETLANDS DAY
- 1 – CLEAN UP AUSTRALIA DAY
- 3 – WORLD WILDLIFE DAY
- 21 – INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS
- 22 – WORLD WATER DAY
- 28 – EARTH HOUR
- 1 – FOSSIL FOOLS DAY
- 20-26 – Fashion Revolution Week
- 22 EARTH DAY!!!
- May – NO MEAT MAY
- 22 – INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
- 5 – WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
- 8 – WORLD OCEANS DAY
- July – PLASTIC-FREE JULY
- 11 – WORLD POPULATION DAY
- August – NEEDS SOME EARTHLY LOVE!
- 16 – INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE OZONE LAYER
- 19 – OCEAN CONSERVANCY’S INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEANUP
- 16 – WORLD FOOD DAY
- 21-27 – NATIONAL WATER WEEK
- 9-15 NATIONAL RECYCLING WEEK
- 5 – WORLD SOIL DAY
In the meantime, as we wait for the year to roll out in front of us, here are a few more pieces of concerning news related to the environment. These are the news that we should all be concerned about and begin to work on solutions to address. Boy, there is a lot! Yet, I don’t want to depress you so I will limit it to six.
NAHB Slows Building Efficiency Codes
In one of the more disheartening developments in the building sector, it appears that the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) doesn’t value our planet. The NAHB seems to be hijacking the code writing process to stop further efficiency mandates. These codes set the minimum efficiency standards to which the majority of new homes get built and as such have a major impact on the environment. If you are in the building industry please do what you can to raise awareness of and ensure that our construction industry steadily and consistently continues to move towards high efficiency homes. Call your senators and representatives. Let them know that any pause in or relaxation of energy efficiency standards is unacceptable and irresponsible in the same way that relaxing fuel standards for automobiles is. And if you are in the construction industry give the International Building Code people an earful for this craziness. The only difference is that we live with these inefficient houses guzzling energy, water, and gas for 50+ years in most cases instead of 10 to 15 years for most cars. The other thing you can do is continue to push your clients to go for the Living Building Challenge. The living building challenge pushes our architects to work with the technology we already have available to create architecture that not only lives within the energy and water constraints of it’s site, but is also regenerative and contributes more to it’s environment than it takes.
EPA Almost Gutted
So we all know that Trump is not exactly an environmentalist. But this news article from Elektrek will blow you away. The air has been cleaner in every city across the country because of the drastic reduction in shipping, manufacturing, and automobile traffic. Particularly during this time of COVID-19 pandemic, where air pollution makes more people more susceptible to infection and poor outcome. This is a good thing (not the pandemic, but the clear air). “If it isn’t broken don’t fix it” is a saying that most people operate by to avoid improving themselves and the world around them. However, not this administration. Their motto seems to be “if we can save money for our friends, let’s break everything and poison everyone.” If you think I am exaggerating let’s talk about the failed attempt to allow new uses of asbestos without notifying the Eastern …….. (E.P.A). after it has been removed from the vast majority of U.S. industry for over 40 years! According to Mother Jones, Trump said that asbestos is “100 percent safe, once applied” despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. Leave it to Trump and his goons to use this crisis as an opportunity to let industry pollute again and resume killing people after all the deaths, blood, sweat, and tears that went into getting these regulations implemented in the first place for the benefit of everyone. Sorry people, I don’t know what to do in this situation other than to tile the oval office with asbestos tiles and put an oil refinery next to the white-house or vote Trump and all of his republic accomplices out of office.
You know all the feel good advertising around “BPA-Free” bottles. Well according to this article by JStor that feel good is probably just good marketing. It appears that most plasticizers are very similar to hormones produced by our bodies. They also may interfere with certain biological processes. On top of that, there is still the giant pacific garbage patch, which is a massive invisible floating collection, that highlights how wasteful our society is. It is time for our society to adopt closed-cycle production paths for once and for all. We cannot treat the world as our garbage dump. We are killing the animals and systems that support our existence. Stop buying plastic packaging. Choose to buy food and other consumer items packaged with glass. Where plastics cannot be replaced with other materials, please purchase biodegradable plastics. Push our manufacturers and corporate suites to support innovation and create packaging and products that are biodegradable. The good news is that efforts to eliminate single use plastics have been yielding some pretty significant results.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and Hydro-fluorocarbons (HFC) have proven to be very harmful to the Ozone and a major culprit of global warming. As a refrigerant CO2 has no ozone depletion effect and a global warming potential (GWP) of 1.0 which makes it a better choice than the alternatives currently available. Considering that refrigerants are used in closed loop systems the ongoing emissions would be minimal and potentially neutral as the gas can be drawn from the atmosphere. Most refrigerants have a much higher GWP at 10 to 100 times the GWP of CO2. The refrigerant with the next lowest GWP number is R-502 at 4.1 GWP with an ozone depletion potential (ODP) of 0.283. The good news here is that the CO2 systems are now practical and affordable enough as to be considered by commercial contractors such as Arista out of NYC. If you are in the construction industry you can help by specifying CO2 refrigerant systems and ensuring that all older refrigerants are properly disposed of to eliminate any potential for them to be released into the environment.
Renewable Energy Wins!
We are on track to replace our fossil fuel dependence with renewable sources of energy. According to this article from Bloomberg the U.S. got more energy from renewable sources than coal in April of 2019. What is even cooler is that “Solar and wind are proliferating not because of moral do-gooders but because they’re now the most profitable part of the power business in most of the world.” The only point on which I disagree with this article is the assertion in the title that capitalism is behind the world’s biggest climate victory. The reality is that government incentives and loan guarantees are what enabled the industry to become competitive at such a rapid pace to address this crisis. Without that support we would not be where we are today. Photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbines would not have been able to develop sufficient market size to create the manufacturing and production efficiencies that bring down costs and make it possible for these companies to compete with fossil fuels. What I don’t understand is how Bloomberg touts this as an example of capitalism “working” and only ever so briefly acknowledges the tremendous role of government research and subsidies (not just in the U.S. but across the globe). While capitalism is a powerful tool we must be aware of its limitations as it does not take into account negative “externalities” such as global warming and pollution. There is also built in inertia from existing businesses that stand to lose vast sums of money from disruptive technologies and will use politics and government to defend their industries. That aside, this report is wonderful and very hopeful news for our society and the health of our planet. If you have the chance make sure to specify PV or Wind on your next construction project. If you are a homeowner, now is always a great time to reduce your dependence on fossil fuels and allocate your resources to help the environment. And on a systemic level renewable energy accounted for over 75% of newly installed power capacity in 2019!
Energy Efficiency Wins!
As they say, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Although Trump may not understand this logic many consumers do. This article by the Natural Resources Defense Council goes into many of the ways the energy efficiency improves our lives, the environment, and our pocketbooks. In addition, the EPA in 2015 estimated that American consumers have saved over “$430 billion on utility bills [and…] 2.7 billion metric tons [of green house gas emissions] since 1992“. And the great news is that this efficiency trend has not stopped. If you are choosing between appliances, keep buying the most efficient appliances you can find. If you are a mechanical engineer keep designing your appliances to optimize for efficiency. If you are an architect or an HVAC/mechanical engineer, tighten your damned envelope details and specify the most efficient systems you can! According to the EIA in 2015 over half of all energy used in the residential sector was for space heating and cooling alone! Low hanging fruit people!
We hope that you have found this earth day post to be helpful and enlightening and maybe make you a little bit angry about what is going on. Our goal is to help you find a project and a goal that you find worthwhile and provide some specific actions that you can take to move our society in the right direction. We hope that this post has been useful in this regard and will inspire you to take some action to help our planet. We need everyone because we are all on board our earth-ship anyway.