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Environmental Transformation of the U.S. Economy
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01/28/07
Welcome!
Filed under: The Green Wave, Sust. Purchasing, Sustainable Finance, Sust. Manufacturing, Sust. Infrastructure
Posted by: Tracy Parsons @ 12:04 pm

Welcome to the official Blog of Turning the Ship: Environmental Transformation of the U.S. Economy.

Starting February 5, 2007 our contributors will be posting their articles here. For detailed information about the program, please visit www.turningtheship.com

5 Responses to “Welcome!”

  1. Kim Says:
    This looks quite interesting; I look forward to participating. Kim
  2. Paul Bradley McConnell Says:
    The Growth of a Ditributed Energy Market The only renewable technology to become economically viable for utilities is wind energy. It fulfills government mandates for utilities to make clean energy available, but it also has drawbacks. It must be shipped great distances to customers at losses in efficiency, and it also requires the expansion of the grid. The utility company exists in order to produce, sell, and distribute energy and so there is simply no beneficial reason for these agencies to promote local clean energy production or practices that promote efficient demand side management. In light of this we probably all should be made aware of what environmentally sustainable alternatives are now available so that we can begin to improve upon their economic viability. This means research and development, career education, and financing methods to insure these technologies will become more cost effective in the future. It‘s essential to raise public awareness of the need for trained engineers designers and installers so that the human resources are available to meet future market demand. A distributed approach to the production of energy entails on site energy production using renewable energy. Technologies such as photovoltaics, or solar panels, small wind turbines, especially in rural settings, and geothermal resources like ground source heat pumps can significantly lower a buildings energy demand. These options provide for a safe and reliable distributed energy infrastructure. If Zero Energy Homes, or at least much lower energy housing, are going to become widespread then we had better start thinking about how to finance and offer these technologies now. Low and no energy housing are already possible and so it is to be expected that builders begin to offer these technologies to the public. Because buildings currently represent 43% of our total energy consumption, with housing accounting for 21%, significant progress in the reduction of GHG emissions can be made in this area. Some benefits of making the switch to renewables are: freedom from cost fluctuations from the long term inflation of non renewable energy supplies (the cost of non renewable fuel is presently as low as it is ever going to be), local economic growth and job creation, and a healthier more sustainable environment for future generations. Renewable energy can be designed as an integral part of buildings and is also well suited to a wide range of industrial and commercial applications. Price is supposedly the only drawback, and this is not altogether true, because over the life of any system it will eventually pay for itself. The question seems to be: To rent or to own? I suggest looking at some of the solutions Germany and Japan have used to make these technologies economically viable for their countries. Because of the potential crisis global warming presents to us all it seems to be in the public’s best interest to lend a hand to the market so that we might presently make renewables more cost effective. I tend to think it is a question of if we will chose to recognize the need to pay for the unknown hidden cost of easily accessible fossil energy now or perhaps paying much more for not being willing to later. As things currently stand there will be no reason for utilities to change policies as long as there are no legislative solutions introduced by our lawmakers. It is up to us to call for policies that facilitate the wide scale implementation of clean technologies. It will not happen if we continue to say that clean air and the possibility of a more stable climate aren’t yet worth the price we must pay. I think that we need to take a good look at some of the hidden costs associated with global warming. For instance: the insanity of rebuilding the Gulf Coast. If we continue to spend money on fossil fuels instead of clean energy then the Gulf Coast might very well end up once again under water. How much will it cost for us to learn that we cannot avoid what the evidence is pointing towards because it doesn’t fit our current political economic forecast. This will not prevent nature from instituting its own agenda. Lowering consumption is not a viable solution to lowering GHG emissions or increasing sustainability in general. It is a lofty goal but alas not realistic one. We can however try to develop more efficient ways of doing things even if doing things requires more energy. More people cannot help but to do more things. We cannot help but to eat all the cake that is placed in front of us and then knowing we’ll soon grow hungry we’ll begin to wonder where the rest is kept for later. Humanity seems to have a gift for finding a use for what ever is available. Our desire for more is not always a negative attribute though; this is perhaps just what fuels our ingenuity. It might be what drives us to do our best. It is time we start using the resources we have left to invest in healthier solutions than the ones we have used in the past. The technologies are available today and the good thing is: There is always more energy! The sun alone can provide as much as we can ever figure out how to use. What can we lose? Better still what do we stand to gain? The creation of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing and skilled labor sectors filled by people who are right in believing that what they are working towards is a more sustainable future. A means of achieving greater gross domestic product based upon reality not speculation. That sounds like a bargain. Paul Bradley McConnell Mid-Missouri EcoVilla Project
  3. Peter Lowitt Says:
    If we are going to solve the underlying problem of a perceived lack of compatability between industry and the environment, we need to address the issue of sustainable manufacturing. I propose a National Eco-Efficiency Tranfer (NEET - because it is) program modelled on the National Industrial Symbiosis Program (NISP)in the United Kingdom (http://www.nisp.org.uk/). Universities are allied with industry to create new homes for orphan products and to reuse previously unwanted industrial by-products. This is eco-industrial development, turning waste streams into revenue streams and arranging transfers of materials between firms, creating new products and increasing the efficiency of industry while benefiting the environment. In North America we have a number of unco-ordinated efforts underway, ranging from the Coalition for Eco-industrial Development in the Lake Superior-Duluth region to the Burnside Eco-efficiency Centre of Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS. The Devens Enterprise Commission in North Central Massachusetts is charged with redeveloping the former Fort Devens around sustainable development princples and has recently launched its own Devens Eco-Efficiency Center. At Devens we have approached eco-industrial development as a partnership program between our emerging community, business and environmental interests. This resulted in the development of an environmental branding and achievement program created by a steering committee representing these interests. The program is known as EcoStar and was launched one year ago. We have twenty six members who have committed to participate in our program. Firms must achieve ten core standards and five additional standards from the twentyfive (25) created by the steering committee. Members receive the EcoStar Action Guide, a 104 page resource book built around the 25 standards, and can receive technical assistance from our EcoStar Coordinator and participate in our workshop programs (a number of which are downloadable from our website, http://www.devensec.com/sustain.html.) There are a number of organizations in North America which are working to support this movement toward a new system of manufacturing, one of them is the Eco-Industrial Development Council - http://www.eco-industry.org/ - another is the US Business Council for Sustainable Development, http://www.usbcsd.org/. These initiatives are ably supported by university programs such as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Center for Industrial Ecology http://www.yale.edu/cie/. Our colleagues in the United Kingdom are producing important results. They are providing an example for those of us in the US to follow. Peter Lowitt, AICP Director Devens Enterprise Commission Chair Eco-Industrial Development Council
  4. Allison Friedman Says:
    Hi there - I am writing to share information about Rate It Green, an online community for green builders and everyone interested in green building.
  5. Allison Friedman Says:
    Hi there - I am very excited to see this blog, and I am looking to do my part to help transform our economy! I am writing to introduce Rate It Green, an online community I am helping to build for everyone interested in green building products and practices. Recently launched, Rate It Green (www.rateitgreen.com) features an online Green Products Forum and a Green Ratings system where members can share their thoughts and ask questions about a variety of green products, services, and related topics. Fundamental to the Rate It Green concept is that people will benefit significantly from the type of advice only available from those who have already worked with and used these products and services. Joining Rate It Green as a community member is free of charge (Individual members who wish to post on the site fill out a registration survey – but Rate It Green will never sell or give out any personal or confidential information). Companies also register with Rate It Green free of charge, as our goal is to include as many resources as possible for our members. So far, we have had a wonderful experience growing this beta site slowly, one friend and supporter at a time. Companies, in particular, have been very supportive and several have thanked us for offering free registration. And we have much work yet to do. We look forward to integrating our forum more smoothly with the site, perfecting our ratings displays, and adding new features such as a green buildings jobs board and a highly searchable company directory so people can find the most relevant resources as quickly as possible. Our biggest challenges at Rate It Green include: -Letting people know we are here. We are currently self funded and have a small budget. I think this is a barrier to many organizations that want to help move the green market (I recall there is a portion of this blog devoted to barriers - funding is often one!). -Counting on people’s willingness to share information with others. Our site counts on people to both ask questions AND respond to the inquiries others have posted. One contractor recently gave me an example of a great tip he could give others, but he did also say, “I am not sure I’d want to share this with my competitors…” His honesty was appreciated, and we had a ncie conversation about the idea that we would hope others would also share their experiences with him… -Overcoming nervousness about any negative information appearing in the marketplace. Rate It Green is about growing the green market. This certainly means that we are here to facilitate the efforts of those who would like to share information and shout about products and services that have worked well for them. But this also means that people may also wish to discuss improvements that need to be made to products and services. As a community, we need to also be comfortable with information about needed improvements. We should all want to do better. In fact, it really does not benefit the market when the information out there may not be 100% accurate. What I have found happens then is that people learn by trial and error and can get very frustrated. I have seen one painter give up after trying three products based on manufactuers’ claims. This was the only information he could find at the time. I would rather these manufactuers learn what improvements people would like to see in their products than have people get frustrated and perhaps decide not to be green anymore. Again, we should all want the market to product top products people will want to buy! Thanks! I look forward to hearing form others on similar topics and organizations. And I look forward to hearing what we at Rate It Green can do better. Feedback is always welcome. Allison Friedman Rate It Green www.rateitgreen.com atfriedman@comcast.net afriedman@rateitgreen.com

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