Skip to content

Greening the Dragon

2008 October 24

About the author: Ken Sandler is Co-Chair of EPA’s Green Building Workgroup. He has worked for EPA since 1991 on sustainability issues including green building, recycling and indoor air quality.

This past summer, the world’s eyes turned to Beijing to watch the Olympics. With that attention came more scrutiny to the many environmental issues resulting from China’s long economic boom.

Two facts demonstrate the mix of hope and challenge that China represents for our future. First, carbon dioxide emissions (the greatest contributor to climate change) are growing rapidly in China, to the point that some estimate China has already surpassed the U.S. as the world’s leading emitter. Yet China also is projected to have surpassed the rest of the world as the leading producer of clean, renewable energy – including wind, solar and hydropower (according to the Renewables 2007 report sponsored by Germany).

I had the privilege of visiting this remarkable country this past April, as part of an EPA delegation meeting the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in Beijing. On this trip, I got to meet people who are working to make green building a reality in China, from the government, major universities (Tsinghua, Shanghai Research Institute of Building Sciences, Huazhong University of Science and Technology) and even a government-supported non-profit (Administrative Center for China’s Agenda 21).

While there are vast differences between the situations of our two countries – chief among them the major environmental crises facing China and the disparity between our governmental systems – I was struck by a few of the similarities. There, as here, the status quo too often prevails against the wisdom of making our buildings more efficient in their use of energy, water and materials, and healthier to live in and around. There, as here, progress often hinges on the initiative of a few heroic individuals willing to stick their necks out to try something new and innovative.

I got to meet several such individuals on my trip, working on such projects as the Eco-House that will be showcased at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. They were eager to learn more about EPA programs like Brownfields and ENERGY STAR, and about the progress Americans have made in establishing green building as a major trend in the U.S.

In the Olympic spirit, I’d like to see the US engage in strenuous but healthy competition with China, to see which of our countries can move faster toward discovering and applying the greenest technologies – in our buildings, vehicles, factories and more. Call it the race for the Green Medal – and let the games begin!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    November 4, 2008

    I read in travellerkit.com, the Vatican City will install 2,400 solar panels on the roof of the building to reduce carbon gas. I think, it’s good idea to make green building.

  2. Greenlady permalink
    January 11, 2010

    China maybe the largest producer of green energy but at what cost to the environment? Green energy is often assumed to be good for the environment. I do not advocate a policy of flooding vast amounts of land, displacing millions of people and destroying the habitat of threatened and endangered species in the name of green power.

    The 3 Gorges Dam is huge. The length is over 300 miles. It flooded an incredible amount of land and destroyed countless number of 100s of acres needed by rare species. We can kiss all those species good-bye. I have been following the Yangtze River Dolphin since the 80s and this was the final blow. One might have held out hope that there might have been several we had not found in surveys but now that there habitat has been entirely destroyed they will not be around for many more years.

    People also do not realize the implications the flooding of this vast amount of land and storing the water will have on the Earth itself. What happens to a top that is spinning when you add weight to one side? It is no longer balanced and the revolution and precession of the spinning object changes. How are we impacting the Earth by adding all this extra weight North of the equator? How will this effect climate?

    We act too fast and praise too much without considering all of the ramifications. Man is a hasty animal that is too quick to praise his own ingenuity. In a sustainable world we need to consider long term what the impact of our actions will be.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. the games

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS