Earth Day Education

Earth Day began in the 1970's by U.S Senator Gaylord Nelson, who stated, "The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become ... We have to address the population issue. The United Kingdom, with the U.S. supporting it, took the position in Cairo in 1994 that every country was responsible for stabilizing its own population. It can be done. But in this country, it's phony to say 'I'm for the environment but not for limiting immigration.'" Nowadays Earth Day has steered away from population control and is focusing on sustainable development using green technologies. This is a problem, the root cause of our environmental distress is overpopulation, and til this day we have not solved that problem. We can make appliances more efficient, cars non-gas dependent, houses off-grid, but how do we curb population growth? Let's bring back the root cause of Earth Day and figure out how we can hinder our species from becomming hyperinvasive. Earth Day is on the net...

It's in the newspapers...

It's displayed ontop of buildings...

And lucky for us there was a LEED education seminar for Earth Day by Neyer Co., which is the leading developer of Cincinnati. LEED is a point system that applies to LEED experts and building certificates. LEED = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. If a building passes a certain criteria (i.e., how much % of total energy from renewable energy, site selection, building materials, worksite safety) it will obtain a certificate: Silver, Gold, or Platinum. At the Silver and Gold levels points are given based on the compounding of green resources (i.e., passive solar, rain gardens, cross ventilation, pervious parkinglot). One green technology will not give you a point, but a series of products and more importantly the laid out process will. The Platinum certificate is harder to get because it entails the bigger scope of sustainable design. For instance, more than 30% of the certificate depends on site selection and use of the land.

Here are a bunch of brokers and contractors for various companies. Some were showing examples of their pervious concrete mixes for parking lots, others were showing examples of their bio-retention plans for rain gardens. One booth had a design plan for a museum that was 100% off-grid. The parking lot was made pervious from rock and vegetation, and above the lots were rain shelters with solar panels ontop. The vegetation underneath the solar panel structures promoted cooling, which helped the efficiency of the panels. Ontop of the museum building was two 500 KW wind turbines.

Rain gardens are the new trend in Cincinnati. Cincinnati seeks to control two key things: (1) storm runoff and (2) air quality. Note: LEED takes into consideration regional differences (regional geography). Both of these issues can be tackled with urban gardens. Uncontrolled storm runoff leads to flash flooding, which causes pollutants to be rushed to the main watershed (Ohio River) untreated by soil and vegetation. It also causes basements to floods and sewers to overfill. Not good. Rain gardens reintroduce surface roughness, plants for air quality control, and infiltration for storm water drainage into flat and sterile urban landscapes. You can find them next to worksite gutters, in medians in roadways, and surrounding parking lots. Turn grey into green.

This booth here was rather interesting. Do you know the nutrional labels on the back of every food item you buy? Well, what if you had a 'green label' on the back of every appliance that told you how much GHGs the product 'contained', how much energy it uses in operation and how much energy it took to produce and transport from the manufacturer to the store. What if it showed you how much $$ you could save or how many penguins you'd be saving? Haha, I hope this becomes popular. Right you'll notice that some common necessities, like clothing and toiletries, are labeled as 'organic' or 'biodegradable'. Let's go one step further.

Ah cheap coffee and cheese. You can see my buddy Drew wandering what the heck I'm up to taking pictures of everything.

Water wars. The U.S. would like to get some water relief from Canada, but right now Canada is holding it's ground on selling water credits, and I think it should. When you act unsustainable for decades and use up your resources, that's it. No more resources. The U.S consumes more than 25% of the Earth's resources and I think it's best we learn the long and hard way what it means to deplete resources by witnessing it firsthand on our land, otherwise we will just keep consuming other nations' resources. No resources = population control? You betcha.

I picked up a plefora of newsletters and brochures on local green initiatives.

Here's the structure behind the LEED program. It's been put together by the Green Building Certificate Institute and United States Green Building Council. I haven't heard much of LEED, but Drew, who is a LEED AP, is teaching me all about it. Some nations are opting to copy the LEED program by creating a system of credits for green alternatives in building designs. In a couple months they are releasing LEED v3 2009, which will be online and involve more complete certification requirments. What I am seeing different with LEED processes is that it requires open sharing of knowledge and collaboration between developers, educators, construction workers, environmental firms, etc. People should know what a particular developer does in order to obtain a Gold certificate, thus you can find the specs and plans on the net if interested (aka translucency) . Everyone seemed to agree that right now the important thing is to make people aware of LEED.

Just a few thoughts:

1. College students are looking to pay more for universities that invest in green design

2. Sustainability - meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. I disagree with this, who's not to say our needs of the present are too needy? Who's needs anyway? A movie star or a homeless man? Maybe we should decrease the needs of the present in order to be able to fill the needs of the future.

3. U.S. buildings take up 72% of our nations electricity consumption, 39% of our nations total energy use, and 13% of America's potable water. Most of that electricity consumption comes from heating... so, we need to focus on passive solar designs, geothermal potentials, and alternative heating/cooling methods, like radiative cooling.

4. On average there is a 1-7% increase in development costs if you chose to go LEED certified, but by being LEED certified you can get governmental incentives and if renewable energy systems are involved you can make profit by tying back into the grid (payback).

5. One of the biggest things I think people skip on is the environmental stewardship. This 'green revolution' shouldn't be about new products and $$$, it should be able saving the planet because we are a caring and responsible species. One presenter said you have to put your passion and heart into green design and I strongly agree with that.

6. The greatest unforseen impact that LEED certified buildings are witnessing are large increases in productivity. This is often accomplished by simply removing artificial lighting and replacing it with large windows and natural light. Sun = energy = life = love = $$$.

7. Portable offices are cool. Removable carpets, windows, desks, chairs, etc. Not only are the office material lightweight and portable, but they are constructed from natural, non-toxic ingredients. Some can be made using recycled goods.

8. "Trees are contagious; as soon as one neighborhood or street is planted, citizen pressure builds up for action from the next street." - William H. Whyte. Will this happen with green design?

9. Two types of green roofs: (1) extensive, <6>6 inches of growing medium. Green roofs = carbon sequestering = clean air.

10. Berlin has been doing rain and roof gardens for more than 40 years. In Toronto it's part of building codes to have green spaces on roofs. Why is America so behind?