Cities

...or, how we fight over the kids, housework, and money like everyone else!

Love in a time of cataclysm

Wanted: Experienced couples therapist, preferably also with degrees in theology and law, for fractious, passionate pair riddled with apocalyptic anxiety, burdened with love for their children (all of them), acutely conscious of the finitude of time and resources, and fearful that the world has gone mad. Must take insurance. Everyone told us that building a house could wreck a relationship. And we knew it was true. The rehab of a beautiful old house in Hull had been one of the final blows to Ken’s marriage. I spent part of my childhood living in one room with my family of five, …

Radiant Cities: Drive Through This

Can we really make the drive-thru a source of power?

My father believes that the one modern invention above all others to contribute to the downfall of the planet, not to mention our civilization, is the drive-through — or, in the spirit of efficiency on which it’s based, the drive-thru. Your idling could light this sign!Not only does it encourage laziness and obesity by tempting fast-food fans to stay seated in their automobiles during both purchase and consumption, there’s the whole car idling issue. By one estimate, every fifteen minutes of idling consumes 0.175 gallons of gas, resulting in as much as 58 million tons of CO2 dispersed into the …

Are new nuclear plants the answer? No.

Oh, those sexy building codes: More powerful than 100 nuclear plants

Building energy codes are the key.Are 100 new nuclear plants the solution to our climate troubles? I asked that question in a post last week. The answer lies buried deep within the 1,428-page Waxman-Markey climate bill (H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act), passed by the House and now under consideration in the Senate. It is Section 201, pages 320-348. It is this section that makes H.R. 2454 worth passing. No matter what else is compromised or changed in the climate bill as it works its way through the Senate, Section 201 must not be changed or weakened. …

This Week in Placemaking

The greenest grocery store, biggest “living wall,” and more eco-innovations

The green-building news is coming so fast and furious it can be hard to delve deeply into each story. So here’s a survey of a few of the shiniest, brand-spankin’-newiest, innovativest projects taking shape: The nation’s greenest green grocer.Fore SolutionsHannaford Supermarket, Augusta, Maine. This grocery store in the Pine Tree State’s unassuming, working-class capital has earned top honors from the U.S. Green Building Council: LEED Platinum certification. It’s the first supermarket in the country to do so, and the regional chain — which made green headlines in the past for being certified as an organic retailer — hopes it won’t …

little green houses for you and me

The case for a national building energy code

Recently, there has been a good deal of media attention given to building energy codes, generally and specifically, the codes provision of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), both good and bad. A couple of these articles piqued my interest by asking if building energy codes should be a matter of federal importance or if it should be left to states and localities. I am fascinated by this issue, as before coming to NRDC I worked in the commercial building industry where beating code was how you were evaluated as an engineer. The sum of those energy decisions …

Smarter cities

The 15 most sustainable U.S. cities

Seattle is the most sustainable big city in the nation, according to a list compiled by Smarter Cities, an NRDC project that looks at the progress American cities are making toward going green. Not surprisingly, San Francisco and Portland are the runners-up. Using data from the EPA and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as some voluntary survey responses from city governments, the project identified the top 15 large, medium, and small cities according to 10 different environmental criteria, from air quality to recycling to transportation. Here’s a look the top 15 large cities (population of 250,000 or more): It’s …

Ambition and trouble collide

Vancouver’s Olympic village aims for green, runs into problems

Vancouver’s vision for its Olympic village looks dazzling from afar, like the city itself. Up close the details get hairier.Photo: ecstaticistThe city of Vancouver, British Columbia, has a lot to brag about. It’s got an enviable location, wedged between the Strait of Georgia and the snow-capped Coast Mountains. It’s a perennial winner of “most livable cities” rankings, thanks in part to its parks, arts, and the Canadian social safety net. Its youthful mayor, Gregor Robertson, talks up the city as the greenest in North America and has laid out a plan to make it the most sustainable city in the …

Hippies Cast a Long Shadow

Treasure hunting during building demo

Hippies on the Boston CommonPhoto: Nick DeWolfeOne of the joys of demolition (in addition to anger management) is the hunt for treasure. When pulling apart old walls and closets you just can’t help dreaming about unearthing a cache of old coins or silverware (I’ve found both). Mostly pickings have been slim at the JP Green House — a few fragments of broken china, some old bottles, and a rusty pair of pliers — but under floorboards in the basement we uncovered a trove of newspapers from 1968, the Summer of Love. My favorite is the May 26, 1968, Boston Globe …

Green Acres

How smart is your city?

Last week, Time magazine asked, “Why Are Southerners So Fat?“ There’s no simple answer, of course. Poverty, culture and climate all play a role in the South’s high obesity rates. But one factor that’s increasingly blamed by everyone from medical journals to the CDC is how Southern cities are built. “The South doesn’t have many bus stops,” Time writes. “Public transportation is paltry, and for most people, the best way to get around is by car. … States like Mississippi and Tennessee also have a surprising lack of sidewalks, discouraging even the most eager pedestrians. Many roads are narrower than …