My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Live Green or Die

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The garage-top garden at the Sullivans' green three-flat in Rogers Park

Many people I know, especially Bob, are hopping mad about the vote in Congress to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. I haven't touched the issue, just as I've turned away from blogging about war and global politics since the election. It makes me too angry and depressed to talk about what our national "leaders" are up to, and I prefer to save my energy for things that I can do something about, or at least are relevant to my daily life. But maybe that's a cop-out. Bob writes:
    • The United States has only 3% of the world's oil reserves, yet consumes 25% of the world's oil production. There is simply no way to drill our way to "energy independence".
    • The EIA estimates that almost 60% of energy burned in the United States is wasted. By becoming more fuel efficient, the U.S. could eliminate the need to import oil from unstable regions of the world. A sound, comprehensive energy policy for the U.S. would invest heavily in renewable energy and energy efficiency technology to produce safe, clean energy and good, high-paying jobs.
And let me be the first to say, I've wasted way more energy than you have this winter. In some ways our old house is the opposite of green. With its leaky doors and windows, lack of insulation, and bathroom fan duct basically open to the outside, the house might as well be made of paper as far as energy efficiency goes. So we have a lot of work to do if we want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

In contrast, the other day I read in the Reader about the Sullivan family, who have turned a 90-year old three flat up in Rogers Park into the first privately owned multifamily dwelling anywhere to be declared Energy Star compliant. I have never been able to get at Reader articles online - if somebody out there knows how, please help me. But I've found plenty of other information about the building online. While the million-dollar plus cost of this rehab is obviously beyond most people's means, many of the ideas they used can be adopted by almost anyone. Putting a garden on the roof and on top of the garage to reduce the "urban heat island effect" is a fairly easy and attractive step to take, for example. And they have really built a better mousetrap in terms of insulating bare brick walls. Any homeowners out there in Blogistan should check it out.

Not that the greenest thing they did was simply not tearing the building down. It consumes a lot of energy and resources to build a building, not to mention a lot of trees for timber, etc. By refitting what was already there, they stretched out the useful life of the building, spreading the initial investment in energy out over two centuries instead of just one.

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