What's the payoff period? How about "as soon as we start"?

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If you don't know that rehabbing the homes and other buildings we already have is going to be one of the most important initiatives of the next 20 years, it's OK. That puts you well in the mainstream.

But that's going to change. Buildings use almost half the energy in America, and there are 110 million homes alone. Even if every new building in America over that time were to be zero net energy, we will have continued to squander energy and affect the climate adversely if we don't redo what we already have.

Joseph Lstiburek: Good houses, not social statements

This is another installment in my series of miniprofiles of sustainability-minded people. Joe Lstiburek (pronounced "stee-brick") is a nationally recognized authority on building science in general, and especially on moisture-related building problems and indoor air quality. To recap, the profiles are "mini" not only because they're short, but because all the questions are 10 words or less, and the answers are requested to match.

Principal, Building Science Corp., Westford and other locations

Green epiphany: “I don’t think I ever had one.”

Green hero: “I don’t have one; I think green is mostly overdone. But I do have an architectural hero, Edward Mazria.

A sustainability practice you’ve taken on: “”I’ve done my house. We took an 1880s house and made it ultra-energy-efficient.”

A few words about hypocrisy

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One of the points of my continuing series, "What We Do At Home," has been its subset, "What We Don't Do At Home." We're trying, but we're far from achieving a perfectly sustainable lifestyle, even within the bounds of what any two suburbanites can do without moving to the tropics and growing/shooting/foraging for everything we eat.

Coal sucks, still

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When you speak against coal, the most likely rejoinder is that half of our electricity is generated by burning the ultra-dirty fuel. (See the first comment. He adds that coal is "all natural, too.")   And that's true. Even though I hate the stuff, I acknowledge that I like my electricity, and I use it all the time, and if we ditched coal tomorrow, my electrical supply would quickly put me in touch with what it's like to live in, say, Baghdad.

Flush choices

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Especially during the election, many among the climate-concerned called for a "Manhattan Project"-style initiative to devise or develop the technology that's going to save our asses.

But that's not a good analogy, because we don't need one solution — instead of trying to create one thing, we must solve a myriad of problems that don't all stem from the same stalk, even if energy is the most common point. That means we need a myriad of solutions.

Joel Gordes: "Treat it as a national security issue"

Another in a series of miniprofiles of sustainability-minded people who are working to reduce humankind’s footprint on the planet. They're "mini" not only because they're short, but because all the questions are 10 words or less, and the answers are requested to match.

JOEL GORDES, 62, West Hartford, Conn. Energy consultant, Environmental Energy Solutions

What do you do? “I work on all sorts of energy-related issues, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, climate change and the insurance industry, and energy security.”

Green epiphany: “Flying missions over Vietnam. I was an Air Force officer flying unarmed reconnaissance, and the land looked like the craters of the moon in places. Then in 1972, after I came home, I happened to read an article in Scientific American about the cratering of Southeast Asia. That was my moment.”

Green hero:Dr. Albert E. Burke. He was a Yale professor who was the first to use television as an educational medium working at the connection of the environment, our resources, and our freedoms. He came publicly before Rachel Carson, before Barry Commoner, before Buckminster Fuller.”


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