Cities

Remaking of an Empire

Empire State Building to get efficiency overhaul

I’ve been wanting for a while to start a column called “Sexy Retrofits,” exploring the idea that the key to green building is overhauling existing buildings, not starting from scratch. Despite what Larry Page might think. It’s not the most glamorous notion, but it is energy efficient, cost effective, and exciting. I swear! So consider this the first edition, because it doesn’t get much sexier than this: the Empire State Building is going green. In a news conference today, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg will appear with Bill Clinton to give details of the $20 million retrofit, which will reportedly include …

You asked for it

Seattle’s transit-supporting sales-tax hike goes into effect

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr If you noticed this week that your bar tab was a bit higher than usual, it’s probably because of that extra shot of tequila you’re now regretting the sales tax hike. As of April 1, residents in King, Pierce, and Snohomish county started paying more for their purchases — one half of one percent more, to be exact — and that money is going toward Sound Transit light-rail expansion, improved express-bus service, and boosted capacity on commuter trains. Sound familiar? That’s probably because you marked an “X” in a spot on your November ballot …

Myth: Using less energy = sacrifice

Mention “reducing demand” to Average Jane American and she’ll assume you mean conservation:  turning off lights, drying clothes on a clothesline, riding a bike to work, wearing a sweater when it’s cold inside. And when she thinks conservation, she’ll generally think, ugh, there go the dirty hippies telling me to feel guilty and be miserable again. Both these associations are bogus. First, when energy wonks talk about demand reduction, they usually mean efficiency. That means consuming the same energy services — the same “warm showers and cold beers” — using less energy. For instance, driving a Prius rather than a …

Hot air emissions

A roundup of notable speeches from the Sport and Environment Conference

The big news of day one at the World Conference on Sport and the Environment in Vancouver, British Columbia, was the unveiling of a carbon neutrality plan for the 2010 Olympics. The rest of the day’s events were a lot like the offset plan: solid at their core and short on details. During a keynote address, socially responsible investment executive Thomas Van Dyck managed to drop the lines, “The green tide must lift all ships,” “Green is the new green,” and “We must put the eco back in economy,” all within 30 seconds, all without a smile or a trace …

How much CO2 does a Zamboni emit?

Vancouver Olympics Committee shopping carbon offset plan

The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) wants make the 2010 Winter Games carbon neutral, but the plan it released Monday counts on help from the private sector to make it happen. At the World Conference on Sport and the Environment, VANOC announced a plan to neutralize 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide, mostly through renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in British Columbia. That’s the amount of emissions the February 2010 games will create, according to a preliminary carbon forecast by the David Suzuki Foundation. The forecast expects two thirds of that amount will come from air travel by spectators and participants. …

Greening the games

Vancouver showcases preparations for 2010 Winter Olympics

For the next two days I’ll be reporting from Vancouver, British Columbia, where it’s hard to walk two blocks without running into a construction project related to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Eleven months from the opening ceremonies, Olympics buzz is fairly palpable, with games-related ads on the airwaves, heaps of Olympics gear for sale in souvenir shops, and construction cranes dotting the skyline. The city gets a chance to highlight its preparations this week at the World Conference on Sport and the Environment (you know it’s classy because they say sport and not sports), which will explore …

Trailer Thrash

Reinventing the trailer park

Trailer parks get a bad rap, especially in the post-Katrina days when we’ve come to see them as North American refugee camps slowly poisoning their displaced inhabitants with formaldehyde fumes. But the trailer park, done right, actually holds great potential as a development model. MiniHome: a big idea. Sustain Even in its current form, with communities of not-particularly-mobile homes plopped atop concrete blocks, the trailer park is a kind of low-rent template, a version of new urbanism without the bells, whistles, and marketing budgets. In Canada particularly, trailer parks are vacation spots, more campground than affordable housing, with density, communal …

Earthship’s Michael Reynolds on the Colbert Report

This is one of the most successful, least awkward Colbert interviews I’ve seen, with a guy named Michael Reynolds who builds houses out of trash and runs Earthship.

Newsom says San Francisco will adopt Berkeley green financing model

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom said something that caught my ear: San Francisco is going to adopt Berkeley’s innovative financing program to fund not only rooftop solar (as Berkeley does) but other distributed generation and energy efficiency projects. That is excellent stuff. Hopefully SF can pull it off successfully and influence other cities to follow suit. UPDATE: Newsom says SF’s program will expand Berkeley’s “exponentially.” Instead of a couple million, $20-$30 million will be available. A huge list of energy generation and efficiency projects, everything from geothermal to boiler replacement. Says the program will kick off April 5. UPDATE2: Correction …

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