Define Green

This is an encore Green Builder’s Journal discussing the topic of natural resource depletion and sustainability. It is still valid today.

 

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So last time we defined “green” as any effort or strategy undertaken to reduce the demand of natural resources.  Any effort.  Any strategy.  Any natural resource.  It’s that simple.  You can put the label of “green” on any effort or strategy that achieves the goal of reducing demand on any natural resource.  I repeated it on purpose to emphasize that when you hear the word “green”, you should ask yourself; how does this reduce the demand on a natural resource?  If it doesn’t, it isn’t “green”.

Of course the interesting fact about this “green” movement is that even if the entire world took a  “green” stance tomorrow all it would actually do is stall the issue of natural resource depletion.  Think about it.  Its math.  Demand obviously grows with population.  To illustrate, let’s use simple numbers, say that today one hundred people use one hundred trees, or one tree per person per year.  If everyone adopts “green” behaviors and cuts the average use to a half tree per year, yet the population doubles to two hundred people…..well then one hundred trees still lose their lives every year.  Even though we can say we’re all “green”, we’re still headed for natural resource depletion; in this case trees.  We just delayed the process because I’m pretty sure we’ll keep adding to population.

Seems like a good time to introduce the term “sustainable”.

Actually before I do that, let’s talk about natural resources.  I know we all remember from grade school geology, biology, chemistry and geography what a natural resource is (unless you slept through those classes), but what do we mean by natural resource in this context? Well, virtually all the “stuff” in our lives started as a natural resource.  Yes there are some man-made chemicals that have enhanced our lives, but for the most part everything we see, smell,  taste, hear and touch started as a natural resource.  Trees, water, coal, oil, gold, copper, etc are examples of natural resources.  As humans, we’ve used natural resources on their own, and in combinations, to create virtually everything in our lives.  For thousands of years, the ratio of humans to natural resources was so low, no one really cared about using as many natural resources as they desired because it was incomprehensible that a planet as large as ours could actually run out of what appeared to be an endless supply of natural resources.

Of course it was probably as equally incomprehensible to those early humans that eventually there would be six billion of us.  Guess what?  There is.  Not only that, but it only took 34 years to go from three billion to six….and best guess is about another 25 years to double again to 12 billion.  That ratio of humans to natural resources I spoke of, has done a massive flip flop to the point where I don’t think any one of the six billion of us is dumb enough to think that pace can continue unabated.  In other words we can’t “sustain” the level of natural resource depletion that this level of population increase will demand.  Or can we?

Which takes me back to the word “sustainable”  But I’ll save that for next time.

Until then,

Herb

Camarillo 1 Rendering

Camarillo Village Park Collection

Even though 3 years have passed since originally written, these blogs are still very relevant and are worth reposting.  Enjoy.

So what does “Green” mean?  I find it interesting that it seems to be human nature to define something, and then broaden the definition so much that, over time, no one really knows the true definition.  Or they end up with their own definition.  Take the word “celebrity”.   It used to be easy to define “celebrity”.  One had to be talented and famous.  Today you don’t have to be either.  Pretty much any goofball with a gimmick or the right connections can be labeled a “celebrity”.  Over time the definition has broadened so much it’s become essentially subjective.

“Green” suffers from the same problem.  So to actually blog about “green” building,  I feel I need to define the term as City Ventures sees it, so readers won’t apply their own definition after years of having the definition broadened so much that the term is meaningless.  I saw an ad for a “green” diaper the other day and one for a “green” detergent.  How can a diaper be “green”?  For some reason it doesn’t seem plausible that a diaper can be “green”, a detergent can be “green”, and a house can be “green”, and it certainly doesn’t seem plausible that they all three mean the same thing when they label themselves as “green”.

So let’s define “green”.

As an Economics Major 100 years ago, I learned about the term scarcity.  The whole basis behind Economic theory is that ALL resources on Earth are scarce and the study of Economics is how those resources get allocated amongst people.   That’s called Economic behavior.  Natural resources are no different than manufactured resources or service resources.  They are scarce, meaning there is not an unlimited supply of them available.  The demand for natural resources relative to the supply of them results in their price.  As global demand for natural resources increases with population growth and supply decreases with resource depletion, the price goes up.  It’s bad enough that the price goes up but the bigger issue is that eventually the supply runs out.  In that case there is no price that creates equilibrium between supply and demand.  The resource is gone….. and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

It doesn’t take much of an education to figure out that at the present rate of natural resource use, combined with the assumed rate of natural resource use as the worlds developed population dramatically increases over the next few decades, means demand of natural resources will eventually ELIMINATE the supply.  Sounds a little extreme.  But is it?  Do we really think we can continue to use natural resources forever?  It’s not logical.

“Green” is defined as any effort or any strategy undertaken to reduce the DEMAND of natural resources.  Any effort.  Any strategy.  Any natural resource.

I need to expand on this subject further in the next blog as we’ll get into terms like sustainable and  LEED certification.  Plus I need to define “Green Building” .  But that’s it for now.

Until then

Herb

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Green Builder’s Journal is written by Herb Gardner, President of City Ventures Home Building Group. Herb has 30 years experience managing the building of residential and apartment communities in over 60 municipalities in 3 different states.

A big proponent of in-fill communities and the urban lifestyle Mr. Gardner has extensive experience in all aspects of residential home building, ranging from land acquisition to warranty management, he specializes in managing teams of people in delivering communities on time, on budget and to the quality standards the marketplace demands.

For Questions, Feedback or observations you can Click here to Email Herb

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