Cities

Of price and men

Making buildings more efficient: looking beyond price

Photo courtesy kimberlyfaye via Flickr Using energy more efficiently in buildings may be the fastest, cheapest way to substantially reduce carbon emissions in the short-term. How can we make it happen? Last week, New York Times‘ David Leonhardt wrote a great column about a new proposal bouncing around the White House: “cash for caulkers,” a stimulus program to support building retrofits and efficiency. (Leonhardt has more details on his blog.) And as I wrote on Saturday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is pushing to have a similar program included in the upcoming Senate jobs bill. So it seems that national policymakers …

Jobs we can believe in

Merkley wants Senate jobs bill to help finance building efficiency retrofits

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with the chairs of six committees that might have some hand in developing the clean energy bill. The question at issue was whether the bill should be pushed back in favor of a short-term focus on finance reform, jobs, and the deficit. Though John Kerry argued vigorously that the clean energy is a jobs bill that won’t grow the deficit, it looks like he lost out and there will be some kind of standalone jobs bill in the interim. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is now advocating that any jobs bill include support …

How a simple renovation turned into the "Big Dig" of rehabs

Home Economics of the JP Green House, Part 1

More work than anyone imagined — watch a slideshow of the project unfolding.Leise JonesIt is worth noting that the original JP Green House budget for the first year of the project was $25k. In retrospect, this was woefully inadequate, but by no means out of line with the four previous rehabs I had completed. We now project that total expenses for the first phase of the rehab, from purchase (July 2009) through occupancy (January 2010), will come in over $200k, a cost overrun of Big Dig proportions. Like the largest public works boondoggle in U.S. history, we seriously underestimated the …

They Nailed It

Reinventing the JP Green House

For the last year and a half, Ken Ward and Andrée Zaleska have been rehabbing a 100-year-old former neighborhood store in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. They’re converting it into a home for their combined family, a community gathering place, and a zero-carbon demonstration home to inspire others — and sharing their journey in the special series Coming Home: Chronicling the (re)invention of the JP Green House. The firm overseeing the project, Placetailor, specializes in creating homes on the Passive House model, in which supertight insulation and careful use of passive solar create a building that requires no heating …

Placemakers

A surprising sneak peek at the clothesline revolution

This interview is part of a series on people who are making their communities smarter, greener places to live. Got a nomination? Leave it in the comments section or send it along to us. Alexander Lee founded Project Laundry List as a Middlebury College undergrad in 1995, after hearing Dr. Helen Caldicott say we could shut down the nuclear industry if we all did things like hang out our clothes. He’s been true to the cause ever since, pushing for clotheslines across the land — even at the White House. Grist caught up with him to find out how hanging …

The night I slept with Jim Hansen

Students take a stand on Boston Common.Ian MacLellanIt seemed like I had just fallen asleep in my bivvy on the hard soil of the Boston Common on Sunday night, when I was rudely awakened around 1:00 a.m. by the voice of Craig Altemose, founder and driving force behind the Massachusetts Leadership Campaign, crackling through a bullhorn: “Wake up everybody. The police are here and they have given us a two-minute warning. If you do not want to be cited for trespassing, you need to move immediately off the Common.” One hundred and fifty students and community supporters gathered for the …

Low Impact, No Publicity

Simple people

I don’t dislike No Impact Man. He is more intentionally political than his detractors portray him to be, and I think his yearlong stunt of living without toilet paper in NYC has been eye-opening for a lot of people, and amusing for many others. I admit that the “happy green” genre of books that are appearing a lot now, exemplified by Sleeping Naked is Green (by Vanessa Farquharson), make me nauseous: a hot twentysomething journalist makes sacrifices such as “buying only green cosmetics” while traveling to eco-resorts by plane and making amends with carbon offsets. But I was, until recently, …

Why Does Oklahoma Want To Drown New York?

As the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee began hearings on carbon regulation, debate ran along traditional battle lines, but with a new script. Democrats Barbara Boxer (CA) and John Kerry (MA) moved away from discussing the environmental impacts of climate change – – and the reason, therefore, to take action to reduce carbon emissions – – and focused instead on the economic benefits of a domestic clean energy economy. Meanwhile, Republicans James Inhofe (OK) and Lamar Alexander (TN) complained that energy bills would rise and Americans would lose jobs. It’s a good thing that Congress is finally looking at …

PBS NOW - Electric Car Dreams

The long and wind-powered road

The Danes have an enduring relationship with wind. This is symbolized by the big, honking wind turbine that looms like a bird of prey over the parking lot outside the Bella Center, the venue for the U.N. Climate Change Conference Denmark is hosting in December. It was a Dane, physicist H.C. Oersted, who discovered electrical induction, the principle at work inside wind and other electric generators. Danish farmers brag they were the first in the world to generate electricity from wind. The Danes are now hard at work cracking one of the great challenges of wind power: the fact that …

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