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High times & High Lines

Rob Steadman looks into the USA’s ‘seedy overbelly’, and the modern trend of sustainable urbanism.

New York New York! The Big Apple, what a town! The City that never sleeps! You’ve heard all the clichés, but clichés come into being for a reason.

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Rob Steadman looks into the USA’s ‘seedy overbelly’, and the modern trend of sustainable urbanism.

New York New York! The Big Apple, what a town! The City that never sleeps! You’ve heard all the clichés, but clichés come into being for a reason.

Manhattan is truly a sight to behold. A mighty concrete jungle that defiantly towers as a symbol of US economic prosperity, it’s constantly at the forefront of innovation in urban planning and cutting edge policies and as home to the United Nations, is one of the most important cities in the world.

There’s little wonder that no other city has served as a shooting location for the film industry as many times as the breathtakingly cinematic New York. The Queensboro Bridge, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty – everyone instantly recognises the truly iconic skyline.

Less people, however, may recognise the Manhattan High Line.

The High Line is a one mile linear park built upon a section of raised freight railroad, redesigned as an aerial greenway on the Lower West Side’s Meatpacking district.

The park features a mile of grassland, and flora and fauna that cut through the concrete backdrop. It is now a trendy and environmentally friendly attraction that is stimulating the neighbourhood’s development.  

New York is the most populated city in the USA, with over 8 million people according to recent census figures. Overcrowding, pollution and crime have all plagued the city in the past twenty years.

Given its nature, it may seem odd for Blue & Green Tomorrow to be reporting the virtues of a bustling metropolis. However, the High Line represents an innovative and environmentally ethical idea brought to fruition that has now sparked a trend of rooftop gardens, farms and official public parks across the USA and beyond, becoming known as sustainable urbanism.   

Sustainable urbanism, or new urbanism, is a concept that started around the early 1980s. It incorporates environmentalism and aims to create walkable urban areas designed with open spaces, lowered traffic congestion and environmentally friendly and resource efficient green buildings.    

In the late ‘90s, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the West Chelsea neighbourhood, formed Friends of the High Line – a non-profit organisation seeking to transform a former eyesore into a public park.

This novel idea took off, and six years later the ribbon was cut by Mayor Bloomberg, opening the park in 2005.

The story of the High Line is quite remarkable as two neighbourhood average Joes proved that thinking big can pay off, and recycling is beneficial and economic, even at an infrastructural level.     

Chicago – ‘America’s Second City’ – has very much run with the idea and is leading the way in green rooftops. The Windy city now boasts over four million square feet of rooftop gardens or ‘green roofs.’

Green roofs absorb CO2, and reduce the urban heat island effect, whilst also providing a natural habitat for wildlife, and improving urban air quality.

Furthermore it adds to commercial property value. The Chicago green roof programme is revolutionary with the city providing grants, awards and incentives to encourage individuals and businesses to convert their roof space to green land.  These incentives have transformed rooftops across Chicago.

Now Chicago plans to develop the Bloomingdale trail; a proposed liner park running 2.65 miles through central Chicago. Built upon an old Canadian Pacific Railways-owned embankment, it was conceived almost at the same time as the High Line in New York, but was rejected twice for funding. It finally secured funding in 2007 with an estimated construction coast of $70m.

The High Line concept has certainly spread with Philadelphia also developing its own high line.
Each section of the New York City High line cost $153 million to create, but have stimulated an estimated $2 billion in new developments around the area including offices hotels, and art galleries.  

High Lines and green roofs however, do not seem to have flourished in the UK as they have in the USA, but the Rolls Royce Motor Car Company do have one of the largest green roofs in Europe in Goodwood, West Sussex.

The University of Sheffield have been pushing the development of green roofs for some years, setting up the Green Roof Audit in 2010 which aims to “lead the way on blue and green infrastructure”.

They’ve concluded that the creation of a Green Roofs Policy within Sheffield planning, has led to the creation of approximately 25,000m² of green roof within the city.

Germany, however, is the world leader in green roof technology and have a long standing history.

In the 1980s the Germans had already mastered and pioneered green roof technology when it was unheard of in the rest of the world. It is the country with the most green roofs in the world today, with around 10,000,000m² of green roofs being constructed each year.

The art is something taught on Landscaping degrees at their universities, and is considered to be highly important, with green roof research centres in Hannover, Berlin, Geisenheim, and Neubrandenburg.  

The benefits of a green roof are substantial, and with urban sprawl being a continued issue, there is clear academic thinking that green roofs should be something policymakers take into account.

Dr Nigel Dunnett of Sheffield University secured EU funding to establish the Green Roof Research and Demonstration Centre at the University of Sheffield, which is now the UK’s main centre for multi-disciplinary green roof research.

With continuing urbanisation and the UK’s desire to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, green roofs could be a way forward.

Already the UK offer subsidies on homes with renewable energy sources like solar power with the Feed-In Tariff scheme, and incentives like those seen in Chicago could spark a trend of UK green roofs and contribute to improved air quality, and make hundreds, if not thousands of buildings more energy efficient.

Furthermore, turning disused railway lines into linear parks offers urban regeneration and the same benefits as greenroofs.

Standing atop a roof in the City of London, looking out at an expanse of rooftop gardens, would be a beautiful and symbolic sight: a stark green message that we, as a country and a global community, want to combat climate change. 

Picture sources: David Berkowitz & Allison Meier

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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