Let’s wake up people and smell the… green? Going green is becoming increasingly popular due to social, environmental and surprisingly enough, economic reasons. It includes buying sustainable products, locally grown organic foods and, when the time is right, constructing green buildings. Building “green” has increased in popularity throughout the United States and even more so in Santa Barbara. Yes, good old Santa Barbara, the birth of the modern environmental movement. The place where the rent is high, the jobs are scarce and the environmental activism continues to grow.
Environmental activism continues to expand for many different reasons: mad cow, mad bird, mad fish, and don’t forget about plain old common sense. It also has become much more economically feasible to make the transition over to “green.” UCSB built the green Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management in 2000, and since that time the University of California has established a UC-wide policy that commits to only build and renovate green.
A green building is recognized by its level of sustainability. A sustainable building is one that maximizes the use of renewable resources while minimizing the waste during both the construction period and energy use throughout the building’s lifetime. Minimizing the waste while maximizing renewable resources includes using recycled building materials, installing water-saving and low-energy appliances, making efficient use of solar energy with south facing windows and establishing solar panels on the roof. The start-up cost for these green buildings is about the same when compared to an equivalent building. In just a few years after construction, a green building will actually generate revenue from all the energy saved.
The UC’s decision to commit to a green building policy was due in part to UCSB’s Environmental Affairs Board (EAB). Yes, that’s right, the same student group who organized that kick-ass festival in Isla Vista a week or so ago in celebration of Earth Day. You see, EAB doesn’t just consist of the “stupid hippie” students. It is a group of like-minded, bigger picture individuals who are committed to making a difference in this dynamic, modern-thinking world. The EAB members view the UC as a role model for other larger institutions and corporations.
Who pays for the electricity and water bills here at UCSB? Essentially, the students do. Tuition has gone up an insane amount this past year. Maybe if the UC system started looking into even more “green” solutions, everyone could benefit.
As the UC system begins to implement “green” practices, the start-up costs for the green building infrastructure will continue to decrease, thus giving other large corporations more incentive to build green. Driving down the cost increases the demand, and in due time, all buildings, including houses, will have to be built green due to basic economic principles. The waste associated with conventional construction will be eliminated, and maybe these “common sense” practices will eventually allow the next generation to live in a much healthier environment. In the past five years, cows have gone mad, a bird has given us the flu and the mercury levels in the fish are so high that we are recommended to eat tuna only once a month. “Stupid hippies” aren’t the only ones affected.
It has become increasingly vital to manage our resources effectively as the population continues to grow exponentially and our scarce resources escalate in value. A significant part of resource management is green building design and implementation. People of all walks of life were at the Parade of Green Building downtown this last weekend. Where were you? Check out the Isla Vista Food Co-op, participate in EAB meetings, join I.V. Surfrider and, if anything, do a freaking Google search on environmentally and economically friendly products! I guarantee you’ll be surprised!
Ryan Little is a senior environmental studies major.