I just finished reading two things. The first is my latest issue of Eco-Structure Magazine, a perky piece of work with smart looking commercial buildings all with seemingly the same message “green building is great with daylight, recycled materials and some energy savings.” A lot of ‘what’ but not enough ‘how’, all in all not particularly helpful for my pursuit of new information, but I like the projects.
The one small article that caught my eye is about a study by the International Facility Management Association and Johnson Controls into the disconnect between people wanting to be green and not doing it at all. The study shows that in the past 12 months 71% of all respondents said that they were paying attention to energy efficiency, but the studies research shows that this is the second year in a row that energy efficiency investments are sliding and that many respondents reported they are actually did nothing to save energy. This is a national study, but it certainly cuts close to home. Energy efficiency may be the talk of the town but not on today’s to do list.
This brings me to the second thing I just finished which is the popular book by Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded. If you haven’t read it, it is basically an accounting of our environmental train wreck, and America’s self absorption. He also gives us a glimpse into a sustainable future, but no bones about it, this is tough love. Friedman hits it on the mark when he proclaims that the political class is still “in their dumb-as-we-wanna-to-be, where we’re always No. one” in his latest NYT opinion piece. We are in fact just slipping further into the swamp of inefficiency and ineffectiveness. We seem to have convinced ourselves that we are becoming greener when in fact we are pointed in the opposite direction. Just because all the magazines, products, events, and politicians have green as their poster child doesn’t mean that that child isn’t going to bed hungry every night.
Don’t believe me. A recent report shows that America’s carbon output shrank this last year due to the recession by one percent, except that our buildings emissions grew by two. Bottom line: green thinking has not led to green action. The above mentioned report says that uncertainty in the economy, in policy and simply anticipation of more incentives are leading to this backslide. All fine excuses if one ignores the immediate and substantive gains from energy savings. Like money.