12 Myths About Sustainability for 12/12/2012

In honor of 12/12/2012, we're busting the top 12 myths associated with sustainability and green training.

12 Myths About Sustainability for 12/12/2012

MYTH 1: Nobody knows what sustainability really means.

FACT: The definition determined by the 1987 United Nations Conference coined sustainability as a way to “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” The definition is really simple, and it can apply to a wide range of things from Fortune 500 companies to the government, and even single-family households.

MYTH 2: Sustainability is a synonym for “green.”

FACT: When most people hear the word “sustainable,” the most common response relates to the environment. In reality the word “green” is often associated with the natural world rather than artificial, while “sustainability” relates to using new technology to lower the dependence on nonrenewable resources.

MYTH 3: Sustainability is too expensive.

FACT: Sustainability can be expensive initially, but in the long-run, a company can save significantly by becoming sustainable. An online article for the Environmental Leader states that the companies can realize “returns on sustainability (ROS).” “Going through [the ROS] process with a multi-billion dollar financial institution, we identified over 160 actions that would improve their sustainability performance in just two hours. They discovered that 60% of these led to cost savings, 20% of these were ideas previously discussed but lacked inertia to get off the ground, and 10% of the actions required zero upfront costs.”

MYTH 4: Sustainability is only a trend that will soon phase out.

FACT: There is a lot of hype surrounding “going green” and “being sustainable,” but it is for good reason. The government is implementing sustainable building requirements for new construction to create more efficient buildings, decrease construction costs, and improve the internal building air quality. Green building emphasizes ventilation and the use of low emitting materials, which will contribute to a healthier, and more comfortable indoor environment. Another benefit associated with sustainability efforts is a substantial tax break from both the federal and state government. Most LEED certified buildings qualify for these tax breaks.

MYTH 5: LEED and sustainable buildings cost more than traditional buildings.

FACT: When the LEED rating system was first introduced, it was more expensive in some cases to pursue the certification, but now most of the minimum zoning requirements include concepts inspired by LEED credits. Green building is becoming commonplace and more cost effective. There are a few LEED credits that can be costly in the short-term, such as implementing renewable energy, but many of the expensive upfront costs associated with construction are realized in the long-term through the efficient operation of the building.

MYTH 6: I can build a LEED building and skip paying for the plaque.

FACT: It is a great gesture to implement green building strategies in your design, but the only way to know if you achieved your goals is to submit your designs to a third-party for review. The LEED certification process allows a third-party organization to look at a building’s design to determine if it will operate optimally and in conjunction with your ultimate goals.

MYTH 7: The paperwork for LEED Certification is too cumbersome.

FACT: There can be a lot of paperwork associated with LEED certification, but that is why you include a LEED Accredited Professional on the design team. A LEED AP can earn an extra credit for a project, and he or she has taken training specifically tailored to LEED projects. Submitting a project for LEED certification is more about quality assurance, which is the only way an owner can guarantee that the final building is energy efficient.

MYTH 8: Solar devices require more energy to manufacture than they produce in their lifetime.

FACT: Solar is very misunderstood. It can be expensive initially, but the long-term payback can be substantial. The payback period for a solar photovoltaic (PV) system is 4 years, and the typical solar panel lasts for longer than 25 years. Homeowners may be wary of spending substantial capital on a solar PV system, but adding solar panels to a house increases its market value. If you are interested in solar but skeptical of the payback, hire a consultant. Everblue’s Solar Sales class trains individuals to assess the electrical load of a house and make an informed recommendation to the homeowner.

MYTH 9: Solar isn’t practical where I live.

FACT: The solar PV system captures ultraviolet (UV) rays to produce energy, which can still penetrate clouds on a rainy day. Solar PV can also work in cooler climates, since it operates on the sun’s light not its heat.

MYTH 10: Solar electricity cannot serve any significant fraction of the U.S. or the world’s electricity needs.

FACT: Solar energy can be extremely efficient when used properly. A 100-square-mile section of Nevada could serve the entire nation’s energy needs. Installing a PV system can help on any scale. It doesn’t matter if it is small or large, but installing a solar PV system will alleviate some of the world’s dependency on fossil fuels and nonrenewable resources.

MYTH 11: Solar PV systems don’t work during blackouts.

FACT: Hurricane Sandy provided a spotlight on the limitations of solar energy. Many homes were without power after the storm including homes with solar energy systems. The only way a house can be completely independent of the utility company is by installing an off-grid system. An off-grid system allows the home or business owner to store unused solar energy onsite for use on a rainy day.

MYTH 12: Everblue only provides LEED and BPI training.

FACT: Everblue is a leading sustainability training provider. We offer training for green building, energy efficiency, renewable energy, HVAC, and many other programs. Contact Everblue today to learn more about what we offer or how we can help you become more sustainable.

About Lesley Cowie

Lesley has been passionately advocating for and working with green building and renewable energy since 2009. She has experience with LEED certification, home energy auditing, blower door testing, solar energy, and more. She holds many certifications, including LEED Green Associate and NABCEP Certification. Her work has won numerous awards over the past decade.