Frequently Asked Questions on the Basics of Green
Why Go Green?
Inevitably the first question asked when talking about green is "Why?" According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world population is expanding exponentially.
The world reached 1 billion people in 1800; 2 billion by 1922; and over 6 billion by 2000. It is estimated that the population will swell to over 9 billion
by 2050. That means that if the world’s natural resources were evenly distributed, people in 2050 will only have 25% of the resources per capita that people
in 1950 had. Not only are our natural resources diminishing, but they are being polluted and destroyed without being used. We now face global warming, air
pollution, and a dependence on fossil fuels. It is time to take action and save the planet for ourselves, for our children, and for future generations.
What is "Green"?
"Green" is defined as a product or procedure which has little to no impact on the environment. i.e. Green energy is energy that is created through means
which result in minor pollutants, if any. Being "green" involves using renewable energy sources, creating healthy indoor air environments with adequate
ventilation, making material choices that minimize volatile organic byproducts, using recycled rain-water, and specifying building materials and resources
that are sustainable.
What is "Sustainable"?
The term "Sustainable" refers to any process that fulfills the needs of today, without compromising the needs of the future. Fossil Fuels are not considered
sustainable as they are consumable, and will eventually run out. Solar power is considered sustainable as it is not consumable, and will not run out within
the span of the foreseeable future. Any process in which the ecosystem remains unaffected is considered sustainable.
Renewable/sustainable energy is energy created through sources which have non-pollutant byproducts, and have an ecological source which is not diminished or
compromised through the energy process. Wind power and hydroelectricity both produce substantial amounts of energy and produce miniscule amounts of greenhouse
gasses, if any at all. Wind power itself consumes nothing and creates no harmful byproducts. Renewable energy is one of the most important industries for the
green movement, as it would provide a necessity while no longer destroying or consuming our planet.
Types of Renewable Energy
Hydropower is generated using the mechanical energy of flowing water by forcing it through piping called a penstock, which then turns a generator in order to
produce electricity. Water power also consists of wave and tidal energy, which are both in the infant stage of research. Scientists are trying to identify the
way to harness the energy from the ocean’s movement. Over 95% of Norway’s electricity is derived from Hydropower.
Solar power is harnessed through silicon solar cells, also called photovoltaic cells, which absorb the sun’s radiation. The photovoltaic process involves the
movement and displacement of electrons to absorb the sun’s radiation and create electricity. There are however other systems which involve the use of large
mirrors to heat water, or produce high temperatures to generate steam, which is used to turn a generator.
A wind turbine converts the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical energy, which in turn generates electricity. Thereafter it is fed into the grid to
be transmitted to a power station. Wind Power is very prevalent in the South West with two of the largest wind farms in the world residing in West Texas.
The Process involves trapping heat underground, then building energy that rises near the surface in the form of heat. When this heat naturally creates hot
water or steam, it is harnessed and then used to turn a steam turbine to generate electricity. The Italians were the first to use geothermal energy for
commercial purposes in the early 1900s.
Biomass is a very versatile form of renewable energy. Biomass power plants burn biomass fuel in boilers which heats water. This turns a steam turbine to create
electricity. Biomass fuel is everything from wood to landfill trash, which is currently being used to convert into the methane for the production of dry natural
gas. Agricultural research is seeing unique results, including dairy farms in Texas converting cow manure into biomass fuel and, subsequently, energy.
The greenest country in the world is Switzerland. And more interesting, the 4 of the top 5 "green" countries come from Northern Europe. The United States in
currently ranked 39th. While we are far from the bottom of the list, we are also far from the top. About 5% of power in the United States comes from
Hydroelectricity. However hydroelectricity is responsible from roughly 45% of power in Sweden, and around 98% in Norway.
Each state within the United States is given a rank according to its environmental standing. The top five states are Vermont, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and
Maryland. The lowest five are Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana and West Virginia, with West Virginia being the lowest. New Jersey is ranked 7th, almost
in the top five. New Jersey has the capability to be in that top 5 category, and even in the top 3.
State Green Rankings
What is H.E.R.S
H.E.R.S stands for "Home energy rating system." A H.E.R is an analysis of a home’s construction plans, and gives a projected, pre-construction H.E.R.S Index.
A rater works alongside builders to identify target areas with a home’s design, and explains the improvements needed to meet Energy Star performance.
What is an L.E.E.D certification?
L.E.E.D stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The L.E.E.D is a green building rating systems which provides standards for environmentally
sustainable construction, and currently encompasses more than 14,000 projects in over 30 countries. A transparent process, the L.E.E.D committees are publicly
reviewed for approval by the membership organizations that currently constitute the USGBC. (The NJGA is looking to join the USGBC in the future.)