The environmental movement has gotten a bad rap. Too often, environmentalists are cast as scolds who focus on convincing us to give things up: to eat less meat, to take fewer vacations, to buy fewer clothes. To embrace a future spent rinsing out our shampoo bottles to refill them and anxiously scanning nutrition labels for ingredients that contribute to deforestation.
That’s a discouraging message in two ways. First, it envisions a future that most of us can’t get very excited about. Second, it focuses too much attention on individual consumer habits and ignores big-picture changes that can really move the needle on climate change.
This Earth Day, it’s time to embrace a new message—a message of abundance. The zero-carbon future is a future where we have more of what we want and less of what we don’t want. It’s a future where, by making a few good, data-driven decisions today, we can set ourselves on a path to worrying less over every choice in the future.
In the abundant future, we won’t have to scold our children or coworkers for leaving lights on.
We’re not advocating for wasteful consumption. And yes, a sustainable future will require a willingness to change our habits and consume more thoughtfully. Sometimes that’ll mean giving a few things up.
But in the biggest picture, we can and should build a future of abundance that is aligned with our values and allows us all to focus on what’s most important in life, instead of just accumulating stuff or jockeying for status. The zero-carbon future we envision here at Carbon Title can and will allow us all to meet our real needs.
We need to build enough homes so that everyone has a decent place to live. We need to maintain our infrastructure so that the built environment around us is safe and strong. We need hospitals and schools. We need to be able to heat our buildings in winter and cool them in summer, to cook healthy food for our families, and to travel to new places.
This Earth Day, it’s time to embrace a new message—a message of abundance. The zero-carbon future is a future where we have more of what we want and less of what we don’t want.
All of that is possible with a mindset of abundance—and a few key upgrades to our built environment and how we approach construction. Here are 4 ways the zero-carbon future will allow us to live better:
1. We’ll build our homes and offices with carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative materials. Today, the built environment accounts for 38% of total global carbon emissions. But innovative new carbon-neutral materials like carbon-negative cement and zero-carbon steel are coming into the market that could dramatically change that equation. This is a sea change for the construction industry that’s happening right now, and it will soon enable us to meet our urgent social needs to build without undermining our climate progress.
2. We’ll heat and cool our homes with better, more efficient heat pumps. The heat pumps available today are far superior to traditional HVAC systems. As more buildings switch to these highly efficient new systems, we’ll be able to be more comfortable indoors—for less money—than we ever have in the past.
3. We’ll cook our food on better, healthier induction stoves. Induction stoves can get hotter, faster, than gas stoves. They can cook at lower temperatures, and in general offer more precise temperature control. They’re also more efficient—again, in the abundant future, your energy bills will be lower! Not to mention, induction stoves don’t pollute your indoor air and contribute to childhood asthma.
4. We’ll use solar panels to produce more guilt-free energy than we need. Families around the country are already experiencing what it’s like to stop worrying about the electricity bill—they’re installing rooftop solar and finding that they produce more energy than they could ever use. In the abundant future, we won’t have to scold our children or coworkers for leaving lights on.
Innovative new carbon-neutral structural materials are starting to come to market now, leading a sea change for the construction industry which will allow us to build without undermining our climate progress.
This short list is just a glimpse of the zero-carbon future we can see today. The need to act is urgent enough that we’ll need to innovate many new things quickly and double down on the most promising innovations as indicated by data. This challenge will test our intelligence, inventiveness and talents. We can only succeed if we try, and we can’t try hard enough unless we can also feel hopeful.
Making these and other key upgrades now can set us on the path towards this future of abundance. We just need to let the data drive us towards the most impactful upgrades that will allow us to meet our needs while protecting the planet for the next generation.
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