It’s no secret that the United States has a serious health epidemic.
More than one-third of U.S. adults are overweight. As of 2010, 25.8 million people—8.3 percent of the population—have diabetes and 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years or older in 2010. About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, representing one in every four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
According to a group of retired military leaders, the current generation is too fat to fight; 27 percent of 17-to 24-year-olds are too fat to serve in the military. They despair over what they see as a country becoming fat, dumb, and maybe not so happy. Obesity and health issues in the United States are now considered a national security threat.
So, what does this have to do with green tech? A lot actually.
Green technologies allow us to live more sustainable lifestyles. They provide the tools we can use to create a better future.
Green tech provides leverage to lift us out of fat, dumb, and not-so-happy land into a better future. How? By reducing the strain on our local, regional, and national infrastructure, by providing us with clean air, water, and land, and by putting the power of sustainable living into our own hands, rather than someone else’s.
Green tech is, in fact, all around us now. To paraphrase author William Gibson, the future of green tech is right here, right now. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.
All people have to do is learn how to leverage it. And those of us in the green technology industry have a major role to play in bringing green tech solutions into common use.
What’s going to save us is the application of green tech in all aspects of life. That means not just nationally, but regionally. We start in our businesses and homes, then our communities, and from there it snowballs into a positive, sustainable effort.
How can green tech make us healthier? Let us count the ways:
- Efficiency and energy conservation reduces air and water pollution. It also puts more money into people’s pockets by reducing energy costs.
Water conservation technologies are helping solve our growing water supply problems. In the United States, the EPA’s WaterSense partnership program has helped consumers save a cumulative 287 billion gallons of water and over $4.7 billion in water and energy bills since 2006. WaterSense labels are on water-conserving faucets, showerheads, aerators, toilets and other products. Also remember that water distribution is a huge user of energy, and water is used to cool power plants. So the more electricity we use, the more water we use, and vice versa. Water and energy are linked.
- Automated water irrigation systems, more efficient pool pumps, hot water recirculators and other water-saving technologies reduce the amount of water we use, which is key as our fresh water resources dwindle with drought and overuse.
- Rainwater harvesting, graywater and blackwater (sewage) recycling systems harvest water otherwise wasted, filters and clean it for reuse in flushing toilets and irrigation.
Green development technologies provide a key to handling the obesity crisis. Green technologies in landscaping are not only saving water, but they’re getting people out of the house and into the outdoors again. There is a significant link between public health and recreational opportunities. Bringing green tech into public and private construction projects, for example, creates more open space where plants can flourish and help reduce the air pollution in cities. Where there is ample open space, people tend to get out and walk more.
- The application of LED technology to street lighting reduces the cost of lighting to make neighborhoods safer. LED lights in homes and business reduce the amount of mercury used in fluorescent lighting, and are 80 percent to 90 percent more efficient than incandescent lamps.
- Urban Greening Research conducted by the University of Washington highlights consistent patterns and relationships between safety and city trees and vegetation. Studies of residential neighborhoods, for example, found that property crimes were less frequent when there were trees and more abundant vegetation around a house.
- In business, data centers have been going green for nearly a decade, reducing hardware costs between 30 and 70 percent, maintenance costs by as much as 50 percent, and floor space/facility costs by 33 percent to 50 percent.
- Small- and medium-sized businesses can reduce their own carbon footprints, save money, and become more resilient by using cloud-based technologies for storage, backup, accounting, document management, and e-commerce. Less electricity use equals less fossil fuels used to produce electricity, and that equals fewer harmful pollutants in the air and global warming-causing greenhouse gases we have to fight.
- More natural daylighting in buildings, or daylight harvesting, saves on energy used by lighting systems, and studies show workers are happier and healthier when working in natural light.
- Clean air technologies like energy and heat recovery ventilation systems (ERVs and HRVs) ventilate homes and other spaces 24/7 with fresh, clean air, reducing allergens and the possibility of illnesses.
- Making a home or business more energy-efficient with better insulation and air sealing can reduce humidity that causes molds that can cause major health problems.
- Sensors for temperature, humidity, light levels and other measures can trigger automated events that reduce energy use and protect us from the effects of humidity, UV radiation, etc.
- Properly implemented electronic recycling programs prevent toxins contained in electronics from entering landfills and our water tables, and these programs harvest precious metals and other resources from electronics for re-use. Proper electronics recycling also prevents e-waste from becoming health hazards overseas where the products are often unsafely dismantled and the plastics burned.
The list goes on. It’s huge, in fact.
Can you help us think of more?
The opportunities to help people see the health and economic advantages to using green technologies in their homes and businesses are big, big, BIG. And that will help us all.
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