Nutritional labeling for products, toxins in 'mother's milk", can video games save the world?
11/28/2012: This year's green building conference had much to inform, inspire, and provoke thought. Two keynote presentations created a yin and yang of emotion. Beginning with William McDonough's remarks about how we are toxifying our environment, he states, "If that is our intent..." we are doing a pretty good job. With pharmaceuticals in some drinking water and toxins in 'mother's milk', his message is always loud and clear. We need to do better.
While Mr. McDonough's comments seem bleak, this year's conference provided much hope. If you manufacture anything, here comes 'nutritional' labeling for your products. We are all familiar with the nutritional labeling on foods. Many of us know about MSDS sheets for certain chemicals. Well here comes EPD's - Environmental Product Declarations for anything that is manufactured. Created by the International Standards Organization (ISO), EPD's list in detail a product's environmental characteristics. This is a big step towards transparency and corporate responsibility.
USGBC is making headway. Over two billion square feet has been certified since the LEED rating system was adopted. As we all know, buildings consume most of our energy, create most of our waste and use water and other resources very inefficiently. Each day 1.6 million additional square feet of buildings get certified 'green'. Also announced at Greenbuild, by 2018, six years from now, any building trying to become a LEED platinum building must be net zero energy and, more surprisingly, net zero in water use. How we get there is the challenge - stay tuned.
San Francisco was the perfect venue. No city in the world recycles more and SF diverts over 80% of their waste from landfills. A visit to the local recycling center shows where all the bottles, paper, food waste (called compost and not a waste product in SF) and trash goes. It seems the entire city has bought into the idea. They have pledged to achieve zero waste by 2020. A herculean feat, but if anyone can do it, San Francisco can.
I'll end with a wonderfully hopeful story. Jane McGonigal believes video games can save the world. In her new book (Reality is Broken) Ms. McGonigal details the benefits of video games. From improvements in treatment for individuals with ADHD, autism and depression - to stories of how the collaborative, problem-solving nature of video gaming can cure disease. She details one effort called Fold-it (www.fold.it), where gamers 'fold' proteins in a particular way that creates a cure for a particular virus. The first 'game' was created using a known virus and it's cure. It took scientists and computers 10 years to solve the problem. The gamers did it in ten weeks. There are now all kinds of games you can play to help science save the world. Fold it claims, "The more we know about how certain proteins fold, the better new proteins can be designed to combat the disease-related proteins and cure the diseases."
Once again Greenbuild delivers. A lot of ideas strategies, solutions, work, and for some, games to improve our relationship with the natural world and secure a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.