Vermont is home to a lot of my favorite things. There’s skiing, swimming, music, cheese, apple picking, and more, but perhaps my favorite is Vermont beer. The Burlington area alone has enough breweries to keep one busy for a long weekend – from the classics like Switchback Ale and Fiddlehead IPA, to the ever rotating sours at Foam to the delicious (and highly creative) concoctions coming out of Burlington Beer Co., the 10 mile radius around this small city I call home has something for everyone. Though my love of beer continues to grow, so too has my concern about the sustainability of the beer brewing process.
With a new year and a new decade upon us, the popular trend is to create new resolutions and goals. Being an active member of the Burlington (Vermont) 2030 District Engineering Team has me thinking about the District’s and the City of Burlington’s goals and progress for energy, water, and transportation emission reductions. This post outlines what the Burlington 2030 District goals are, how these compare to the City of Burlington goals, and the services our team provides to property owners to help reach these goals.
Cx Associates’ work focuses on engineering services that save energy, and thus doing our part to save the planet. All of us also have a strong personal commitment to living as sustainably as we can, recognizing that no one is perfect, and that we all do the best we can. Our employees walk or bike to work, take public transportation, compost, live in walkable neighborhoods, drive efficient cars, and recycle.
As you know, Cx Associates’ work focuses on making buildings perform better for occupants, operators, owners, and for the planet. A common metric we use to assess building performance is the energy use intensity (EUI) which Katie has discussed in her recent blog posts. While attending the recent IEPEC Conference in Denver, I had a discussion with someone familiar with Xcel Energy’s work to be a net zero carbon utility in the relatively near future. We realized that EUI is an insufficient metric for guiding energy program investments at their customer sites. Ultimately, to drive carbon emissions down to a sustainable level that will halt and begin to reverse the climate crisis we are currently in, we need to track energy intensity while also focusing on carbon emissions intensity (CEI) at a building level. Cities and states that have adopted carbon reduction goals will do well to focus on reducing the CEI of their building stock through energy efficiency, fuel switching, and renewable energy generation.
I had never heard of composting as a general practice, until I went to school in Vermont. UVM is one of those places where every trash can is accompanied with a compost and recycling bin (at least when inside near a dining area). When I moved to Boston for a few years after school, I was appalled at the lack of compost availability – what was this madness?!?! Luckily, upon my move back to Burlington, setting up an at home compost was a cinch – just fill up a bucket and drop it off at the waste center every other week for free. While Burlington does a fairly good job of encouraging composting, I just returned from a trip to Seattle where they do curbside compost pick up, and every restaurant I visited had a compost bin…STEP IT UP, EAST COAST!
With a recent move, from the outskirts of Boston back to Vermont (where I grew up), I am rediscovering my love for nature, the outdoors, and taking care of the environment. Shortly after our move, my husband and I began exploring our property to plot out a compost location and now have one that is propped on a stand for easy rotation (which to me, feels extremely fancy compared to the chicken-wire enclosure I grew up with). I also recently discovered the mass transportation system that Vermont offers, which is surprisingly convenient for such a rural area. Taking the bus twice a week combined with having one work-from-home day each week has allowed me to cut down my commuting emissions significantly. Among the other small day-to-day measures we take to ensure we are reducing our impact on the environment, my husband and I take advantage of BeesWrap instead of plastic wrap, reusable silicon sandwich bags instead of the throw-away plastic kind, and eco-modes on our hot water heater (this means quick showers!). Like many (possibly most) others, there is plenty more that we could and should be doing – but we’re working on it.
Farhad Manjoo’s piece in the New York Times caught my eye recently and struck a chord. It describes the awful wealth gap that is increasing, seemingly by the day, with each newly minted tech billionaire in the San Francisco Bay Area. He reports that despite the fact that “the annual household income necessary to buy a median-priced home [in San Francisco] now tops $320,000,” California lawmakers recently killed Senate Bill 50, which would have undone zoning restrictions in the state. Changing these zoning restrictions would make it possible for more dense housing to be built, thereby increasing the supply and providing some relief to the non-billionaires in California.
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was born in my home town of Jericho, VT in 1865. The town is situated in Vermont in a unique way that allows for a lot of annual snow (by Vermont standards). Not only does Jericho get a lot of snow, but we also seem to be situated in such a way that we get perfect snowflakes that don’t clump together. This is what allowed Mr. Bentley to become one of the first known snowflake photographers. He invented his own way of catching flakes using black velvet so they wouldn’t melt or evaporate before he could snap a picture of them.
The best time is now to replace an old R-22 refrigerant system with an environmentally-friendly alternative.
For better or for worse, we no longer live in the days of hairspray. Our ’do’s style may have suffered slightly, but our environment has benefited greatly. When the Montreal Protocol was signed by the United States in 1987, it set a goal of reducing emissions of ozone depleting chemicals, and it has experienced some success…I hope you all celebrated World Ozone Day this month on September 16th! Many people may be blissfully ignorant of the changes to their aerosol products in the last 30 years thanks to the Montreal Protocol, but in the HVAC/R industry, we’re continually aware.
For eons, humans have used thick, thermally massive walls to store the heat of the day and to warm their homes at night. Due to America’s persistent dependence on fossil fuels, passive solar walls enjoyed brief mainstream popularity during the fuel crises of the mid-20th century, and residences across the country benefited from reliable, renewable heat. As gas prices declined, so did homeowner and developer enthusiasm for these low-energy systems. As we face a massive climate change calamity and most residential heating systems today are still served by volatile fossil fuels, it is time we revisit and incorporate passive solar technologies into our new buildings and renovations.