Sustainability: A Hefty Thought in Light of the World’s Carnage

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med_Pamelas_Mug_copy55Spending $100 billion to launch a war, and then another $100 billion to fix what we blew up, doesn’t exactly sound like sustainability, which addresses concepts of saving our natural resources, reusing what we can recycle or capturing energy sources in a new way. For humans, (according to Wikipedia) sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic and social dimensions.

So talking about sustainability seems a little weak in light of the world’s current destructive behavior.  But we are a resourceful race and out of the mayhem, we look for optimism, renewal and…thoughtful consideration of sustainable concepts.

In this issue we focus on local builders and environmental companies that are using alternative energy sources and the use of recycled materials, energy-efficient construction and landscaping and the building of healthy homes and offices. Only a few years ago sustainable construction was just an idea that few were advocating, but today this ‘green’ trend in design, construction and development is nearly mandatory.

Note the Zero Net Energy Home to be built in Bend’s NorthWest Crossing neighborhood by SolAire Homebuilders that will contain features that define the most advanced elements of green building. Its design elements include a combination of passive and active solar energy to average zero electrical consumption over the course of a year. Building materials, finishes and mechanical systems will embrace healthy home, clean air and sustainable building concepts.

Many of the concepts being used in today’s construction such as solar power, energy efficient appliances and not wasting building materials but recycling them for future use, are not new. But they are now so popular that numerous entities provide certification as an Earth Advantage construction.

Everything from farming operations, agriculture and timber, green purchasing programs, building products and renewable electricity programs are now certified, which has given the consumer some confidence and assurance that these programs and systems really are saving both natural resources but money as well.

While the news in sustainability is high tech and efficient with alternative energy sources and building materials — Oregon is still recycling and Oregonians are both generating and disposing of less waste per capita.
2009 waste generation equates to 2,444 pounds per person per year, compared to 2,753 pounds per person per year in 2008. This shows that for three years in a row, Oregon is meeting its per capita waste generation goal of no annual increase over the 2005 amount. The decrease is 11.2 percent less than 2008.

This continued decrease in total waste generation correlates to the current economic situation. In hard times, people tend to buy (and discard) less material. Both parts of the equation, recovery and disposal tonnages, fell in 2009, meaning that the recovery rate virtually stayed the same. This mirrors the state’s goals, which call for increasing recovery rates and decreasing waste generation.

And partly as a result, the 2000 statewide recovery rate increased to 38.9 percent, up from the 36.8 percent rate for 1999, according to statistics released by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The figures come from DEQ’s ninth annual survey of garbage haulers and private recycling companies. The recovery rates include materials collected for recycling or composting, as well as some material burned for energy recovery. Major types of materials recovered include paper, organics (food waste, wood waste and yard debris), metals, plastics, glass, used tires and used motor oil.

The energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction benefits of composting, energy recovery and recycling are impressive. Reducing these impacts, through waste prevention, can lead to even greater benefits, given the large natural resource and environmental impacts associated with production of many manufactured goods.

When recycling was a newer industry recycling cost as much or more than trash disposal. Some opponents of recycling argued that state support for recycling may be more financially expensive in the short term than alternatives such as landfill. To refute this argument people pointed out that the benefits to society from recycling compensate for any difference in cost. Landfilling waste is an inefficient use of resources, contributes to global warming through the release of methane into the atmosphere and by the pollution of groundwater and waterways. The long term financial costs of remediating pollution caused by landfilling waste are often not taken into consideration.

The Oregon Business Association views sustainability as a potential economic development component. A major initiative in the Environment and Economic Development agenda concerns innovative technology to established industrial processes; development of environmentally improved routes to important products and the design of new green chemicals and materials. OBA believes Oregon is uniquely positioned to become the nation’s leader in green industries. This is great news for our state and for our economic development prospects.

So, despite the world’s carnage there’s hope and in today’s world, that’s the most we can ask for along with a peace that comes very quickly.

 
During April’s Earth celebration we encourage you to take this month to thank those who are practicing and promoting sustainability and to find a place in this new part of the world for your own business. pha

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