I recently stumbled across a green builders' discussion of a product called RoofKrete, which claims to be a form of semi-flexible ferrocement that can be sturdy and self-supporting in shells as thin as a quarter inch. An additive to the cement makes it a vapor barrier as well, rated to last over 100 years and expected to last much longer than that. The obvious use for RoofKrete, and the major market at which it is currently aimed, is repairing failed flat roofs and constructing long-lasting, low maintenance new ones. But the reason it caught my eye was the potential for green buildings.
Here's an interesting ranking. For each major U.S. city, the list-happy editors at Men's Health calculated the negative effects of driving. They aggregated scores on transit ridership, air pollution, fuel consumption, and driving miles. (Presumably, the data are for metropolitan areas, not city limits.) Northwest cities do exceptionally well: Seattle ranks number one, Portland ranks third, and Spokane is eighth. Men's Health doesn't appear to include a methodology on the web, but I'll take a stab at the explanation. First, a minor point. Seattle and Portland benefit from a felicitous geographic situation: prevailing westerly winds tend to keep our air some of the cleanest in the country, so we do relatively well on air pollution scores. Second and more importantly, the list illustrates that urban areas control their own destinies. Smart policy matters, even if it's relatively small-caliber.
Today's slow yet steady movement towards sustainable foods has a decidedly urban feel to it. This morning, sitting at my backyard patio table and drinking my morning coffee, I looked appreciatively out into my backyard and took a satisfying breath. The highway behind my house roared with the morning rush hour traffic, the high rise apartments across the street were bustling with people hurrying off to school and work, and I was sitting in my own piece of urban heaven. In the past three months, my small yet robust rhombus-shaped backyard has turned into a garden oasis rarely found in even the fertile soils of rural areas. Three raised beds and several fence-side beds later, I was staring at the most satisfying seeds I had ever sowed -- and all of this in the middle of Washington, D.C.
Listen Play “Lonely Goatherd,” from The Sound of Music On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Salzburg, we took a field trip to a few examples of biomass in rural Austria. The country is over 40 percent forested, and over half of the forest is owned by small farmers with less than 40 hectares (just under 100 acres), so the government has put a priority on encouraging biomass use as a substitute for fossil fuels. It’s a stable domestic industry, carefully managed with an eye toward local economic development and, as with just about everything I laid eyes on in Austria, …
This is a guest essay from Jack D. Hidary, chair of SmartTransportation.org and the Freedom Prize Foundation. It was originally published on the Huffington Post and is republished here with the author's permission. The price of oil struck an ominous chord for the U.S. economy with yesterday's record trade of $147 per barrel. At these prices we are sending more than $1 million every minute of every day to oil rich countries. As oil hits a new high the dollar has hit a record low against the euro. Our equity is draining away and flowing to foreign hands. How can we get ourselves out of this mess? This crisis will take nothing short of a restructuring of our core industrial and transport sectors. Just as a turnaround CEO comes in to fix a troubled company, we need a retooling to rid ourselves of oil dependency. We do not need politicians looking for fake fixes such as a summer gas tax holiday. We do not need the President of the United States of America to beg sheiks for a bit more of the black gold. Keep your dignity, Mr. President. The problem is clear -- 55 percent of all the oil we use in the U.S. is guzzled by cars and SUVs. Not planes, not trains, not big trucks. To find the problem look no further than your driveway. Yes, the fleet of 245 million cars and SUVs that we drive in the US -- that is the main problem.
Listen Play "My Favorite Things," from The Sound of Music One of my favorite things to do when I go to other countries is to make wild generalizations about them based on the tiny sliver of exposure I get — like if someone from India flew to, say, Poughkeepsie and reported back, "Americans seem to love cheese fries!" Today, I flew into Munich and took a shuttle to Salzburg, stopping in several small villages in between to drop other people off. Now that I’m an expert on Germany and Austria, some observations: There are no ugly buildings here. There are …
Compared to cutting-edge technologies -- nanotechnology, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, biomimicry -- building codes seem downright stodgy and, dare I say it?, boring. Yet, much to the surprise of many, building codes are fast becoming the Titans in the battle against climate change. Able to fell with a single blow the giants on the other side of the battlefield -- out-of-control greenhouse-gas emissions, thoughtless energy consumption, and gross energy inefficiency -- building codes are beginning to look pretty darn sexy in their own right.
Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. has rolled out a home-insurance policy that covers the cost of rebuilding a home to green standards. The new coverage — which can only be added to Fireman’s top-tier insurance policy — covers the cost of reconstruction with sustainably harvested wood, efficient lighting and plumbing, nontoxic paints and carpeting, and more. The coverage runs an additional $70 a year for a home insured at $1 million, and can be purchased regardless of the greenness of the original dwelling, though owners of previously green-certified homes get a 5 percent discount on their premiums. Fireman’s, a division of …
I’ve seen this graph cited and reprinted here and there on the interwebs, but it’s worth looking at again, if only to remind ourselves that something fundamentally different for the U.S. economy is underway: This is from a U.S. Department of Transportation report (PDF) on traffic trends.
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