Sustainable Living Audio Book – Learn From Looking – Chapter 4: Part 5
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The author of Learn from Looking, Charlie Szoradi, has given us authorization to share the written content and drawings from his book with our readers. This is one of many segments that focuses on the overall theme of sustainable design and overall sustainable living.
Book Topic: Sustainable Living
Learn from Looking is about critical thinking and reaching a sustainable future more cost-effectively than ever imagined. The book's subtitle "How Observation Inspires Innovation" speaks to the core aspect of the content, given that the author, Charlie Szoradi, is an architect and inventor who has traveled extensively around the world over multiple decades and built businesses that range from energy saving lighting to indoor agriculture systems. Mr. Szoradi shares insights on "green" clean-technology that are increasingly key for sustainability, profitable businesses, healthy living, and raising intellectually curious children in a pre and post Covid-19 world. We give Learn from Looking five out of five green stars! Note that the audio book comes with the E-book for only $15 together. Click here to Order the Audio Book on Sustainable Living
Sample content from Learn from Looking:
Sustainable Re-view: What Is Old Is New Again
As the earliest members of humankind faced the challenges of their environment, sustainability was not an option but a survival requirement. Over 100,000 years ago, early Homo sapiens focused on reducing wasted human energy and reusing resources as a default. The early cave-dwelling men and women only had so much energy in a given day to hunt and care for their families. So they sourced local food or moved to find better sustenance and shelter. Today, buying local products is one of the strategic directions of twenty-first-century sustainability. Only since the Industrial Revolution and the advent of transportation and food preservatives have we as a species eaten food that was not primarily sourced locally. Everything used to be organic, because there were no processed foods. American students typically learn about how Native Americans used every part of a resource such as a bison or deer. We would benefit from remembering what we were taught at a young age. The animals were not just a source of protein, but the parts were used for tepee covers, bedding, belts, footwear, glues, thread, bows, and more. They used and reused the resources at hand, without creating toxins or waste for landfills.
Overall, our ancestors at different stages have lived relatively lightly on the land. As recently as the middle of the last century, the “milkman” was a reflection of the spirit of reuse. The milkman would take the empty bottles back for cleaning and refilling rather than undertaking the much more energy-intensive meltdown and recycling process. The same was true for the longneck beer bottles, which were designed so that regional facilities could clean and refill the glass bottles. Plastics changed the game. While adoption of recycling is increasing, billions of plastic bottles and packaging materials end up in the landfills each year. While one-time-use plastic bottles cost less than multiple-use glass bottles, the lifetime total cost of ownership (TCO) is less in certain cases for glass.
Perspective is the key to finding balance in a modern world with global trade and advancing technology. We do not want to go nostalgically backward, but we should also be careful not to steam ahead without learning how to apply relevant lessons from the past. Here is a small example of sustainability move with a high ROI. When my wife, Cynthia, and I were renovating our home outside of Philadelphia, we priced out the new driveway and back patio. The gravel for underneath the driveway asphalt and the patio flagstone was going to come from a local quarry, and it was more expensive than I had expected. Having lived in the heart of Philadelphia for my master’s of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, I remembered occasionally seeing row homes and other dilapidated buildings demolished for new construction. In many cases, dump trucks full of crushed bricks and concrete blocks would roar out of the city in a cloud of dust.
I found out that the vast majority of the debris was just going to landfills. The American Institute of Architects estimates that anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the national solid waste stream is building-related waste, and only 20 percent of construction waste or demolition debris is actually recycled. After a few calls, I was able to find a demolition company that would sync up the “drop” of the crushed and sorted masonry debris at my home on the day that I had the excavation team onsite with the backhoe and front-end loader. The results: I paid less than buying newly quarried gravel, yielding a high ROI on the brief time it took to source and coordinate the demolition stone delivery. The overlay asphalt and flagstone look great, and no one will ever see what is beneath. The demolition company did not have to pay to dump the debris, and the landfill has less waste. This approach to cost-effective sustainable ROI was a key driver for over a hundred different decisions in the construction of our eco-smart solar home that we transformed from an old 1950s house. Many of the lessons learned over the two decades of travel that are documented in this book influenced the sustainability choices for our home and my career as an architect and US manufacturer of energy-saving LED lights.
Dating back to the origins of humankind, we have had sustainability in our DNA. Now we can look harder at what we have and what we need. We can then analyze the true cost to determine the mix of conserving resources, managing consumption, and investing in new technology. We are fortunate in America to have such a breadth of natural resources and energy options. Intelligent strategies with cost-conscious tactical deployment plans and incentives will enable us to thrive for generations to come.
Summary of Sustainable Design
We have the tools and the strength in numbers to make a cost-effective and positive impact. Debate over climate science has stalled mainstream adoption of clean technology initiatives, and we should focus on high-performance ROI tactics. Terminologies such as “global warming” and “climate change” have been divisive in that they focus on weather without capturing the larger systemic challenges to the system.
All of us should accept that massive increases in population with billions more people will result in human activity that has some impact on the system. If we accept interrelationships, then we can work more productively together to find solutions that help the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Sustainability and environmental advocates should maintain their passion while also speaking in the language of business to propose and rank solutions based on ROI, such as the number of kilowatt-hours saved per dollar invested and the number of pounds of CO2 saved per dollar invested. We can also change the terminology to broaden the dialogue beyond weather.
Consider themes such as ecosystem change, eco-disruption, and eco-overload. Top eco-ROI tactics will reduce energy waste to improve business net operating income (NOI), build American energy security, increase quality of life, and foster environmental stewardship for future generations.
The next section, part 2 of this book, includes the travel sketches and observations relative to sustainable design.