Earth Day: Self-Orchestrated, Still…

We Can Do it!
Earth Day became an official celebration back in the early 1970’s, as noted in this New York Times article : “Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….” .
Mostly a grassroot reaction that self-orchestrated, similar and parallel to the coming of women to some sort of economic equality that is still evolving.  One may be wondering where the green agenda has been headed in the recent economic turmoil.  I attended a great presentation at the Green Municipal Expo last week in L.A: during the Great Depression, parallels were drawn between wastefulness and anti-patriotism….
A much larger war is upon us this time; global warming is accelerating much faster than anticipated and demands that we all change to adopt sustainability as the only possible model.  I, the eternal optimist, still believe that we can do it, reaching outside our comfort zone to create a harmonious alternative.

I received today an eloquent email from the USGBC that I wanted to broadcast here: 

Dear friends,

I’m writing to you on Earth Day to share two very important milestones with you that resoundingly answer a question we hear every day: Has the economic crisis crushed the green movement?

The short answer is a loud and resounding “no.”

The long answer is this: As of April 2009, USGBC is proud to count 20,000 organizations among its national membership, and more than 100,000 LEED Accredited Professionals around the globe. Since January 1, 2009, we have broken records every month in new memberships and new LEED AP candidates – exceeding our best projections and demonstrating that green building, and the green movement, are here to stay.

The fact that the green building movement has continued to grow despite the economic crisis isn’t lost on us. “Going green” may not make a lot of headlines these days, but the fact remains that sustainability as a fundamental goal of any enterprise – large or small – is a smart strategy that saves money, water, and energy and creates jobs. 

Last year at Greenbuild, we challenged ourselves to focus our efforts where it really matters – our existing homes, schools and offices. The new construction marketplace may have slowed to a halt, but between existing residences and commercial buildings, there are more than 120 million energy hogs out there that need to be retrofitted for high performance. It could save more than $160 billion in energy costs, and it could put our industry and a lot of other people back to work.

The federal government, many of our cities and icons like the Empire State Building have already pledged their commitment to green building operations and maintenance and have put money on the table. The emergence of this new market for green building is not only good news in troubled times, it’s an opportunity to bring the scale of change to the built environment that we must to preserve our climate and fulfill our vision of sustainability.

Today’s green building movement is as vital as it’s ever been, but it isn’t just about big sexy new architecture anymore. It’s about that 1950s ranch that needs new insulation. And that school where the teachers open the windows to control the heat. And the 99 out of 100 buildings that we still haven’t touched.

So in closing, I’d like to challenge each and every member of USGBC to identify an existing building within your own portfolio to green. Start with the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance checklist, identify the low-cost/no-cost improvements, and get on the path to greater gains. Adobe Systems Inc. is saving $1.2 million annually and getting a 121% ROI on their commitment to green operations and maintenance. How much can you put back in your bottom line?

Happy Earth Day,

U.S. Green Building Council
S. Rick Fedrizzi
President, CEO & Founding Chair

Credits: USGBC, New York Times


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