Green initiatives are making a difference in cities across the world. The number of climate-related disasters has tripled in the last 30 years. Between 2006 and 2016, the global sea-level rise was 2.5 times faster than it was for almost the entire 20th century. More than 20 million people a year are torn from their communities and become climate refugees. In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, it is estimated that $5 trillion will be needed annually by 2030 to finance the system-wide changes necessary to do so.
These consequences of climate hazards are felt in every corner of the world but hit certain communities particularly hard based on their geolocation, stage of development, access to the global marketplace, and more.
These statistics and trends are devastating, and the feelings of anxiety they create are critical to pushing individuals, businesses, and nations to engage in and with sustainability to create a tenable future for life on Earth. Green initiatives by individuals and businesses alike are a critical part of this endeavor as they create a foundation upon which future generations can build.
This article will discuss how green infrastructure projects can mitigate the production of greenhouse gas emissions while bringing communities and economies together to create globalized solutions to climate change.
Reducing Infrastructure Emissions
In an analysis of the progress toward subnational climate targets in the 100 largest US cities, experts found that cities are adopting Climate Action Plans (CAPs) whereby local governments take GHG emission inventory, implement reduction targets/strategies and engage in regular monitoring.
In doing so, cities themselves can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70%. Using aggressive but pragmatic strategies, cities can contribute disproportionately to other potential sources, in that cities are the hubs of carbon production and usage. By targeting these hubs with more sustainable technology (including green buses and energy-efficient buildings), cities are most likely to be the “heroes” of the climate change emergency.
Energy inefficient buildings contribute to climate change by generating nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions, with building operations responsible for 28% annually and building materials and construction accounting for an additional 11%. By retrofitting our cities’ aging buildings with energy-saving technology, we can take great strides in meeting reduction metrics.
As more technology becomes available at affordable prices, large and small businesses can take part in the effort to reduce environmental and economic energy waste. In response to the great potential of green retrofitting to reduce carbon emissions, the U.S. Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification (LEED).
This system measures a site’s sustainability through water efficiency, energy usage, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Companies like the Bank of America, Hewlett Packard, and Walmart have received these certifications, a testament to their commitment to running greener businesses.
Ride Shares Going Green(er)
Rideshare companies like Uber are looking for cleaner and sustainable ways for their customers to use their services. More ridesharing means more cars on the road, and unchecked could exacerbate local environmental issues like smog and heat-trapping. However, in 2019 Uber announced their Clean Air Plan to limit the company’s carbon footprint through hybrid and electric vehicles.
The Clean Air Plan includes an expansion of the program to over 1400 cities in North America, where Uber riders can select the option to receive a hybrid or electric vehicle producing up to 44% fewer emissions than the average trip.
The Plan is part of the larger goal of becoming a fully zero-emission platform by 2040 and having 100% of rides in the major US, Canadian and European cities take place in electric vehicles by 2030. Finally, Uber has committed $800 million through the Green Future program to help their existing drivers switch to EVs by 2025.
Smaller rideshare companies are also paving the way toward a more sustainable industry. For example, Earthride is a company that currently services Nashville, TN, and Austin, TX, and is a fleet made up entirely of Teslas. Their vision is to assist in creating pathways to electric vehicle ownership regardless of socioeconomic status.
Businesses Hiring Sustainability Experts
In the wake of harrowing statistics and weather emergencies, companies often feel overwhelmed and underprepared to implement green strategies. In order to attack the issues mindfully and efficiently, companies turn to sustainability experts to investigate new strategies, supply chain, and operational improvement ideas, all while maintaining compliance with environmental regulations.
Hiring a sustainability consultant has a positive impact on a business’s bottom line, as companies can learn how to improve efficiency by using sustainable resources and maintaining product quality, saving costs, and ultimately increasing profits.
Sustainability experts can embed sustainability programs into the operational infrastructure itself, wherein a business can both actively and passively mitigate climate change and close the sustainability cycle. Beyond the bottom line, implementing sustainability in a business through experts will attract similarly climate-minded individuals – and that population is large.
A 2019 Fast Company article reports that nearly 40% of millennials have chosen a job because of company sustainability. Moreover, according to Morgan Stanley, nearly 86% of millennials are interested in sustainable investing, and as Generation Z reaches into the investing world they are expected to demand corporate sustainability on a large scale.
Businesses today have the opportunity to attract these consumers, employees, and future business partners ahead of the curve. With sustainability quickly becoming a central concern for businesses and consumers alike, taking advantage of the expertise of sustainability consultants now will certainly make a difference in the decades to come.
While global climate change is a formidable challenge, companies of all sizes implementing green initiatives make a difference. Whether it be modifying a business model, cutting down community carbon emissions, or simply learning more about how one’s company contributes to climate change, incorporating sustainability and green initiatives into business is both necessary and sensible in order to face the adversity to come.