Editorial: The Carbon Neutrality Challenge

January 01, 2008
Climate Solutions Special Issue
A version of this article appears in the Climate Solutions Special Issue issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Home Energy has been promoting solutions that reduce the energy use of buildings for 25 years. We have been speaking to, and with, a passionate, but small, community of like-minded energy-conscious individuals. This community is suddenly expanding as more people are coming to understand that inefficient and unmindful energy use is not sustainable, and that it is hurting our and our children’s welfare. All sectors of industry and society need to take on the challenge of reducing the use of fossil fuels and the related emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but the building sector must assume a special responsibility because in the United States it is responsible for almost half of all carbon emissions.

Some of us have already taken up this challenge. Last summer Affordable Comfort, Incorporated, (ACI) convened a summit to explore how to move existing homes toward this goal (see “Moving Toward Carbon Neutrality,” p. 20). ACI will continue to host discussions on ways to cut energy use drastically in existing buildings at its upcoming conferences. And, across the ocean, Germany took this challenge seriously as early as 2003. That was the year the German energy agency, dena, initiated a program to retrofit existing homes so that they meet very-low-energy standards (see “Germany’s Efficient Homes,” p. 30). Here in the United States, individual architects, energy consultants, some utilities, and even some cities are making serious efforts to shrink their emissions output. And we at Home Energy are doing our part by publicizing all of these efforts. Many thanks are due to the sponsors who helped us to create this issue.

One idea that emerged from the ACI summit was that of an intercity carbon neutrality challenge. This challenge might take the form of a competition to retrofit 1,000 homes, or perhaps 1% of the residential building stock, to demonstrate the practicality of achieving deep energy reductions. Home Energy would be thrilled to salute and promote the accomplishments of any city that takes up this challenge. We look forward to describing the technologies used and the programs implemented that lead any city to drastically reduce the energy use of its existing building stock—putting it on the path to carbon neutrality. (We’d even throw in a lifetime electronic subscription to Home Energy for the city’s manager.)

In the meantime, read the articles in this issue and get inspired. Go create a few carbon-neutral buildings—and tell us about them. Get your city to adopt a carbon-neutral plan for its existing buildings—and tell us about it. Old-fashioned articles are fine, and we will also happily post your videos on our Web site—if that is the most effective medium to use to demonstrate the strategies needed to achieve the lowest energy use possible. After 25 years of publishing, we are still regularly surprised and delighted by the ideas, technologies, and solutions that our readers come up with.

Mary James
Publisher, Home Energy

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