Southern California environment news and trends

With new work toward energy efficiency in buildings, a reminder of the energy problem that never goes away

With the LEED gold-certified Santa Monica Public Library as its backdrop, Environment California released a new energy efficiency report called "Building a Better America." In it, the group argues the best place to start saving energy is probably the house or office you're sitting in.

The building sector consumes more energy than any other sector of the economy, including transportation and industry. The buildings where we live and work account for about 40 percent of our total energy consumption and nearly three quarters of our electricity use. This level of energy use costs the United States approximately $400 billion every year.

EC says that by following recommendations it lays out in a two-dozen page report, California will cut its greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by "11 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030." 

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Always more work, and more reports, on energy efficiency in California buildings

mollyali/Flickr

The Santa Monica Public Library is a LEED-Gold certified building. And it's 6 years old.

With the LEED-gold certified Santa Monica Public Library as its backdrop, Environment California today released a new energy efficiency report called "Building a Better America." In it, the group argues the best place to start saving energy is probably the house or office you're sitting in.

The building sector consumes more energy than any other sector of the economy, including transportation and industry. The buildings where we live and work account for about 40 percent of our total energy consumption and nearly three quarters of our electricity use. This level of energy use costs the United States approximately $400 billion every year.

EC says that, by following recommendations it lays out in a 2-dozen page report, California will cut its greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by "11 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030." 

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Apple turns up the sun with new solar-powered plant

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Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Apple, the company that makes a large number of your (um, our) cell phones and computers, is in need of a little good news. The digital giant has taken a big PR hit of late, with reports of questionable employee conditions in their Chinese factories resulting in this week’s ABC “Nightline” expose.

Yesterday, Apple took to the company website to announce something decidedly more upbeat: details of their massive new data center in Maiden, North Carolina that will be primarily powered with renewable energy. CNET reports that the 500,000-square-foot facility will cost a cool $1 billion, and has already earned LEED's highest award – a Platinum certification – for what Apple has planned.

“We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification,” says Apple’s website. “Apple’s goal is to run the Maiden facility with high percentage renewable energy mix, and we have major projects under way to achieve this — including building the nation’s largest end user-owned solar array and building the largest nonutility fuel cell installation in the United States.” 

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Pres. Obama keeps it eco-friendly at Las Vegas hotel

Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

In Las Vegas to deliver an early campaign speech focused on energy, President Obama stayed true to his message by checking into an eco-friendly hotel for the night.

Speaking in front of a local UPS center last Thursday, the President pressed his energy agenda, announcing plans for new oil drilling leases in Mexico. Appropriately eschewing the bright lights of the Strip, Obama and his entourage then made their way to the LEED-certified Element by Westin hotel more than ten miles away.

The boutique hotel is aggressively environmentally conscious, featuring multiple recycling bins (glass, paper and plastic) and energy-efficient appliances in every room, and EV charging stations in the parking lot. The Presidential posse booked the entire second floor of the four-story hotel. Suites at the Element like the one the President stayed in run a reasonable $170 per night.

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Starbucks opens drive-through made of recycled shipping containers near Seattle

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Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Shipping containers have long been a hot topic in eco-circles. With more of them collecting dust across America than many realize, finding myriad ways to recycle the hulking shells abound. Given their size, re-imagining these containers as homes and shelters have been especially popular. The SEED Project at Clemson University was inspired to utilize them as emergency housing in case of devastating incidents such as Hurricane Katrina.

Shipping containers have also become popular as quick and easy pop-up businesses (officially known as “cargotecture”), and Starbucks has jumped on the trend by opening a drive-through store from recycled shipping units in Tukwila, WA, not far from Seattle. Constructed from four cargo containers stacked two high, the location does not have any indoor seating.

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