It’s natural to assume that tailpipes and smokestacks are the main source of greenhouse gases. Transportation and manufacturing do account for 35% of our carbon emissions. But, we start to question our “tailpipe intuitions” when we learn that agriculture weighs in at 25%.
What about the other 40%?
Here’s a clue: people spend most of their time at home or work. In fact, the EPA estimates that on average Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. Our heaviest emissions are happening quietly, every day, in our buildings. The carbon footprint of a building includes not only the power and water consumed in it, but also its construction and component materials.
All of this adds up to a tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact.
Speaking of materials, here’s something remarkable. The #1 item in Project Drawdown’s list of 100 highest-impact solutions to global emissions, is refrigerant management. No one saw that one coming! But, it’s true. By preventing the refrigerant in our heat pumps and cooling systems from escaping into the air, we can cut nearly 90 billion metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions over the next three decades. To put that in perspective, solar power can achieve a decrease of 78.5 billion.
Overall, about 30% of the positive impact in Drawdown’s list relates directly to how we build, operate, and maintain our buildings. Anyone who’s had their home or commercial facility professionally audited knows that energy waste occurs in surprising places and in unexpected ways. The good news is that efficiency and performance don’t have to cost a lot – and they always pay big dividends when it comes to your health, productivity, and utility costs.
The best news is that a good building is even better for the planet.
And that’s because everything is connected.