Roseland, Mark. Toward Sustainable Communities
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Canadians and Americans consume more energy per capita than any other nation. Environmental impacts of our consumptive lifestyles include ozone layer depletion, acid rain, smog, potential climate change, and other forms of pollution and environmental degradation. Our addiction to energy also manifests itself in congested roads, urban sprawl, excessive heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilation expenditures in buildings, costly inefficiencies in commercial and industrial equipment, weaker local economies, and excessive taxes.
Citizens and their governments hold tremendous power to change our patterns of consumption and support sustainable ways of using energy resources. Designing more energy-efficient buildings, and retrofitting existing homes, office and civic buildings saves millions of dollars in energy expenditures, and frees up money for investment in schools, hospitals, community economic development, and a more secure future.
Reducing consumption is usually more cost-effective than expanding supply. By increasing efficiency, the same amount of electricity cam serve more users without requiring massive capital investments to expand power plant capacity.
If additional supply is needed, renewable energy production, such as wind power and photovoltaic (solar) power, as well as cogeneration are more sustainable options. For heating options, technologies such as ground-source heat pumps and districts heating, are more efficient and environmentally responsible than most conventional heating systems.
By encouraging energy efficiency and clean, renewable or efficient energy supply strategies, communities foster local self-reliance and economic diversification. This is not science fiction—these are “off-the-shelf” technologies and techniques that are available today. All that is required is public and political will.
Energy-efficiency simply means “more bang for your buck.” It implies use of products, such as refrigerators, lightbulbs, washing machines, computers, printers, copiers, industrial motor systems, air conditioners, space heaters, and ventilation systems that deliver the same service as other units, but with a fraction of the energy or electricity demands. Energy-efficient building use strategies and technologies, such as passive solar design, light shelves, light-tubes, and high-performance windows, to reduce energy consumption by minimizing or even elimination the need for heating, cooling, ventilation systems, and day-time lighting.