When I was about 14 I decided I wanted to make a difference in the world, grow up and work for the Environmental Protection Agency. I declared to my family, friends and anyone who would listen, we have one earth and we must do our part to save it. I made the profound (probably somewhat dramatic) teenage declaration to stop using aerosols, namely my hairspray. We had to save the ozone. At the time of my declaration, CFCs had already been banned from aerosols since 1978 … and a number of years had passed. But still, I was doing my part. Maybe there was lots of talk in the news about the increasing temperatures around the world. Maybe it was because I was a curious teenager, eager to understand world events. Now look where we are today.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties is taking place this week in the U.K. These climate talks will bring together global leaders and climate experts to discuss tackling climate change. They recognize the earth is changing, and are working to take action.

The building and construction industry is not immune to these discussions. According to Architecture 2030, “buildings are the largest source of the world’s carbon emissions globally and account for approximately 40% of total emissions.” This statistic has driven cities and other jurisdictions, as well as mega companies like Amazon and Apple to pledge to become carbon neutral. New York has also been at the forefront with its Local Law 97, which set a goal to reduce the city’s largest buildings’ emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

But if you’ve been following the blogs and columns Helen Sanders write for USGlass magazine, you know the challenge begins long before a building is operational. That’s where embodied carbon comes in. Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions that come from manufacturing, transporting, installing, maintaining, and disposing of building materials in the building industry. That means even before the glass or window or curtainwall gets to the jobsite, before it’s installed and before the building is operational, these emissions have already been released into the atmosphere.

Fortunately, companies throughout our industry are stepping up to the plate and working to address these issues. The Façade Tectonics Institute also included some extremely informative articles in one of its recent newsletters. Give it a look, as well as Helen’s articles, if you haven’t already.

And with that, let me say, wow—can you believe it’s November? This is my favorite month; I was born in November, and so was my son. He was actually due on my birthday, but was stubborn, and born six days later, but I digress.

I always think of November as a “green” month. It’s the issue of USGlass we dedicate to high-performance products and facades, as well as our Green Awards (keep an eye out later this month). As we start to approach the holiday season and the excess it brings (shipping, boxes, paper and wrapping), perhaps it’s also a good time to think about how we can all be a little more green. I’m certainly not perfect, but I do what I can. I’ll sign off with one of my favorite quotes from “The Lorax,” one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”


1 Comment

  1. Happy Birthday Ellen!

    Nice thoughts and sentiments…it is up to us, and unfortunately, like our parents did for us, the can may be getting kicked down the road, again.

    But as you note, we CAN make a difference.

    Nobody but us, really, today.

    As the saying goes, there is NO Planet B.

    Hopefully we can help our kids take on this problem, next.

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