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Positively Green News for Eco-Heroes

A Look at the Brighter Side of the Green Movement

“Accentuate the positive,” Johnny Mercer once advised through song. It’s advice that many in the green movement would do well to heed right now. Instead of a lot of positive singing, we’re hearing more and more swan-songing, and rightly so to an extent. Global warming and climate change are serious and impending issues, issues that government politics and bureaucracy have forced into a frustrating limbo.

Yet a doomsday mentality, while arguably necessary as environmentalists push for immediate change, too often ignores many of the accomplishments already made - the seeds of what may one day become a bustling, clean, and fair green economy. Beside that, anyone who has fought for climate change legislation or worked in any capacity within the green movement could probably use a little pick-me-up - a positive accent on otherwise gloomy times.

So here are some statistics that accentuate and illustrate the achievements of green pioneers and a populace growing ever more aware of their surroundings and impact on the future of life & Earth.

Renewables

  1. Take solar manufacturing for starters. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 1998, the number of photovoltaic (PV) panels made in or shipped to the USA was just over 15,000. 10 years later, that number was more than 280 million and counting.
  2. The use of geothermal heat pumps has more than doubled in less than 10 years.
  3. There were nearly 700,000 alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) in use in 2007, and that’s not even counting gas-electric hybrids.
  4. Worldwide PV installations more than doubled between 2007 and 2008, totaling just under six gigawatts (GW) by year’s end.
  5. The EIA predicts that renewable-electricity generation will account for nearly 16 percent of total U.S. electricity generation by 2030, nearly doubling since 2007, although President Obama has much more radical plans.

Green Building

Greener Buildings conducted a study to measure the environmental impact of LEED standards on today’s construction market. Below are some findings that should put a smile on your face. Note that these statistics are for commercial buildings only. This is the inaugural year of Greener Buildings’ study, and next year’s version will broaden in scope to include residential statistics.

  1. LEED-certified buildings now represent six percent of new commercial construction, and are growing fast.
  2. Furthermore, as much as 40 percent of new construction projects in 2008 registered for LEED certification (it can take two years from registration to certification).
  3. In terms of land use and vehicle travel, it is estimated that occupants of LEED buildings have avoided or prevented nearly 400 million vehicle miles from being traveled.
  4. The amount of water saved by LEED buildings in 2008 would fill enough 32-ounce bottles to circle the earth 300 times.
  5. LEED buildings use roughly 25 percent less energy than comparable commercial buildings. By 2020, these savings will have eliminated about 78 million tons of CO2 emissions.
  6. Green building materials are seeing a rise, thanks to LEED buildings as well, and already represent a $10 billion market, which could grow to $100 billion by the end of the next decade.

In other news, a study by the U.S. Green Building Council, the creators of LEED-certification, has found the notion that green building is relatively cost-prohibitive to be merely a myth. They estimate that green building costs an average of 2.5 percent more up front, but that savings over the life of the building will pay itself back that initial cost many times over.

This is great news for the green movement, as more and more statistics point to these projects making economic and environmental sense in the short and long terms. Any arguments against energy efficiency and green building are quickly fading into obscurity. Although some stubborn supporters of the myth will likely hold on for a while, we can expect the influx of green building materials, green homes & businesses, and green lifestyles to continue their forward momentum.

So cheer up all you eco-heroes, and don’t give up the fight.

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