Feature Article - September 2007
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Eco-Nomically Green

A Little Green Goes a Long Way

By Dana Carman

reen is the color du jour. Whether it's a celebrity promoting a hybrid or a politician bringing awareness to global warming, green is everywhere. But just because everyone's talking about it doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to do. In fact, in the case of helping preserve our environment and reversing the damage already done, it's the right thing to do. And being green has never been easier.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), among many other positive things, green buildings reduce operating costs and improve employee productivity and satisfaction. Expertise and technology in the field of green design and building has increased, which means that building green is not as cost-prohibitive as many might think. Couple that with the fact that building green can reduce your overall operating costs, increase your employee productivity and reduce your health-care costs by creating a "healthier" working environment, and you've got the kind of savings most facilities can only dream about. Not to mention that you're serving a higher purpose—reducing the environmental impact of your facility.

If you're thinking that to go green, you're going to have to build a structure that looks like it just came out of a Jetsons cartoon or do some other funky thing, that's not at all the case. Generally speaking, when someone refers to a building as "green," they just mean that the building is considered energy-efficient, has improved air quality and conserves water. While grass roofs and solar-panel siding are great, they're not necessary to achieve a building that is considered green. Small steps can have big footprints, and going green starts with taking that first one.

Why Green?

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, in the United States, buildings account for:

  • 36 percent of total energy use, and 65 percent of electricity consumption
  • 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions
  • 30 percent of raw materials use
  • 30 percent of waste output—136 million tons annually
  • 12 percent of potable water consumption