Author Talks about the Need to Reverse the Affluence Trend in America

Last night at GVSU, author Juliet Schor talked about the relationship between consumption, sustainability, the environment, and happiness.

Grand Valley State University’s Liberal Studies department hosted professor and author Juliet Schor to speak at their annual Synoptic Lecture event. Schor is the author of several books, The Overworked America, The Overspent American, and Born to Buy. The title of her talk was “Getting to Sustainability: Work, Consumption, and Everyday Life.”

She began her talk by presenting some statistics to show that in 1960 the average US household spent about $9,000 in consumer products, not including food and utilities and transportation. By the late 1990s that amount almost tripled. The other major factor that changed based on surveys over the past four decades is that despite people spending more and in some cases earning more, their happiness is less. This, the author said, is a dilemma, since the dominant culture says that consumption brings happiness. According to Schor, income and happiness peaked in 1957, even though income has tripled since then. Japan has had a 5-fold increase in income since WWII but happiness rates didn’t go up. The trends are reflected globally, with income going up happiness goes down or stays the same.

Next, the author addressed what she called the connection between consumers and ecological disaster. Part of the unhappiness with increased consumption is because people have begun to realize that their level of consumption has negative outcomes for the natural world and that contributes to the overall unhappiness. One of the outcomes of over-consumption is the increase in human disasters, of which Hurricane Katrina is as an example. She also talked about the problems related to global warming and the potential disasters that may come if serious changes do not occur. The Living Planet Index measures biological systems, the author states, such as earth and water systems. According to the data, the function of those systems declined by 40% between 1970-2000. Human behavior over the past 50 years has done more harm than all previous human impact, according to Schor. Our “Ecological Footprint” is another indicator in measuring what impact humans have on the planet. One example that she gave was to say that if the rest of the planet lived like the US, we would need 4 additional planets, which was one indicator of how unsustainable US lifestyle is. Since 1978, humans have surpassed the bio-capacity rate, according to Schor. This means that we consume more than the planet can produce or replenish.

In a global sense, there is what she calls “The IPAT Formulation“, which is “Impact = Population, times Affluence, times Technology.” Our population is increasing, per capita consumption is increasing, and our environmental impact is increasing. The issue in the US is not population, but the level of consumption. One of the paradoxes from the IPAT is that affluence creates ecological degradation and reduces human well-being.

Schor then talked a bit about the fact that there are some positive trends and ways of thinking that are beginning to influence these dynamics of consumption and ecological impact. She cited the ideas presented in the book Cradle to Cradle, the research into bio-mimicry, what she called “closed loop systems“, and eco-effectiveness, which she described as green technologies. However, Schor made it clear that these changes are not sufficient to create sustainability.

To put this in terms that working people can understand, Schor said the average worker in the US can produce more each year because of technology and other factors for a productivity dividend, which economists claim is good. However, in practice this has meant that we have overworked Americans who produce more and more in the work force and work longer hours, with more stress and less time with family. This is what she called the “cycle of work and spend.” Employers like long hours, there is constant competition for fulltime jobs and the shift from just a male “breadwinner” to both parents working more. Many Americans justify it by buying into the belief in affluence, so we spend more. When we spend more there is greater debt and we live a life on a treadmill.

Schor then told the audience to think about why so many people end up on the consumer treadmill. What we feel about what we have in terms of possession are somewhat relative, because we compare ourselves to others – family, neighbors, co-workers, and people we see in the media. She calls what we are living in now “the new consumerism.” The average American aspires to more and more, and with women into work force, the rising centrality of media and worsening distribution of wealth, this has resulted in a larger gap between the haves and have nots. Another factor, according to Schor, is that there are a whole lot of consumer goods, which are becoming very cheap – cell phones, clothes, and TVs. We are all consuming more and more manufactured goods. In 1991, about 33 pieces of apparel was purchased per person, by 2003 we are up to about 52 pieces per year. This is a growing trend with almost all manufactured goods – furniture, consumer electronics, ceramics, toys, sporting goods, and jewelry. All of this has a great impact on the earth, which results in an accelerated destruction of the natural world.

Schor concluded by saying that we all need to do what we can to reverse these trends or to, as she says, “downshift our lives.” She suggested that people visit several organizational websites, such as one she is involved in called the New American Dream. She also suggested Bioneers, Climate Action, and Co-Op America. Schor said that these organizations can help people begin the process of reversing the affluence trend.

Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves

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In Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves, author Andrew Szasz explores how and why many individuals concerned with the environment have moved from pushing for environmental regulations to shopping. Szasz explains how as a society we went from political activism to purchasing bottled water or how we moved from mass movements to shopping, and how we became concerned insulating ourselves from environmental problems rather than addressing them head-on.

To establish a framework for his discussion Szasz describes a concept that he calls “the inverted quarantine.” He uses this term to describe the response of individuals who seek to insulate themselves from conditions that they perceive to be threatening, in this case an environment that is toxic. Szasz applies his “inverted quarantine” analysis to current environmental problems arguing that as a society, individuals have sought to insulate themselves from environmental problems rather than confront them directly. He argues that this is a phenomenon that has occurred before in U.S. history, using the examples of the Fall Out Shelter Panic of 1961 and the suburbanization of the U.S. While interesting, he spends a little too much time on these historical examples, with a little less than half of the book focusing on those examples.

From his definition of the “inverted quarantine” as a concept, Szasz moves into an examination of various perceived “solutions.” He focuses on three areas through which toxins enter the body–drinking, eating, and breathing. In each of these areas, he looks at common “solutions,” including bottled water, water filters, organic foods, and “natural” health products and examines their potential to address toxic threats. Szasz analyzes all of these responses, arguing that while in some cases–particularly with organic foods–there seems to be a health benefit, they all fail to address systemic issues. He says that it is nearly impossible to completely insulate oneself from all of the toxins in the environment. Even if one drinks bottled water, eats all organic food, and uses natural products, standards are often weak and there is no guarantee that “contaminated” ingredients were not used somewhere in the process. Particularly with outdoor air, there is no way to completely insulate oneself, thereby rendering the “inverted quarantine” response ineffective.

In addition to offering what he calls an “imaginary refuge,” the belief that one can insulate themselves from environmental problems has a more sinister effect–it undercuts support for efforts aimed at addressing environmental problems. The idea that bottled water is safe undercuts public support for improving the countries aging water systems, while the domination of the organic foods market by people who eat that way for health–not political reasons–will limit its ability to take on the industrial agricultural system. The presence of “inverted quarantine” products also limits the potential for people to seek political solutions to environmental problems, because if they believe they can buy products to protect themselves, they will likely do that over organizing and consequently never develop the political consciousness that directs them to the source of the problem. Szasz also points out that in most cases, “inverted quarantine” solutions have a class dimension, as the products can generally only be purchased by those who can afford them.

Shopping Our Way to Safety offers an interesting critique of contemporary environmentalism and the shift towards consumption instead of movement building. People who wonder how we went from mass demonstrations on Earth Day to buying light bulbs will find the book interesting, as will anyone concerned about the state of the Earth.

Andrew Szasz, Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves, (University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay In Denial

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Derrick Jensen’s environmental writing argues compellingly that we need to seriously address the destruction of the environment. Jensen differs from many writers in that he traces the origins of contemporary environmental problems to the rise of industrial civilization, which he argues is inherently unsustainable. In As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial, Jensen–along with cartoonist Stephanie McMillan–takes on the idea that many of the “simple” steps frequently cited to “save” the Earth will work. Jensen’s characters–an optimistic girl who believes that the Earth can be “saved,” a cynical girl who sees through smokescreen offered by these “solutions,” environmentalists who do everything they can to avoid naming the problem (civilization), and animals that know the price of the Earth’s destruction–offer a powerful critique of this idea. Even if everyone–which is incredibly unlikely–took all of the steps commonly outlined on the lists, from properly inflating their car tires to changing their light bulbs, carbon emissions would only be reduced by 1.5 billion tons out of a total of 7.1 billion per year.

The book centers on the aforementioned two girls who are struggling with what is necessary to address the devastation of the Earth. At the same time, aliens arrive on Earth and are set on reproducing and consuming all of the Earth’s resources. The president sees no problem with this, gladly giving the aliens permission to destroy the Earth in exchange for gold. At the same time, a clever former politician–named Ed but basically interchangeable for Al Gore–is colluding with corporate CEOs to direct people towards individual solutions to environmental problems as a means of distracting them from seeking systemic change. The two girls eventually ask a bird–who tells them that they must realize that the natural world is not there enemy and recognize the real enemies, the system that requires constant expansion, the people in power who keep it running–what they should do. This eventually leads them to be arrested by the government who is seeking “terrorists” that rescued animals from a laboratory. The natural world eventually “revolts,” breaking out the “bunny terrorists–and the girls–from prison, killing the aliens, and ending with them moving towards the politicians and those in power.

Scattered throughout the story are commentaries on what Jensen believes is necessary to confront environmental problems, with the characters arguing that a variety of tactics–from arson to violence–might be useful in addressing the destruction of the Earth. Similarly, while making it clear that we all are living in a manner that will guarantee the destruction of the Earth, some people–such as corporate CEOs and politicians–bear more responsibility for the current situation. Characters also argue that humans lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years and that they should not be afraid of the fall of civilization, as they can learn how to live in harmony with nature again if they are willing.

While having a somewhat fantastical plot, As the World Burns raises an important question that runs through all of Derrick Jensen’s books–what is it going to take for us to stop ecocide? If the destruction of Earth by aliens is unacceptable, what about its destruction by those in power? It’s a provocative question that is addressed in As the World Burns in a humorous way that leads people towards–ideally–very serious conclusions about what must be done to stop the devastation of the Earth.

Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan, As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial, (Seven Stories Press, 2007).

Report Critiques Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Initiatives

Wal-Mart, who announced in 2005 a number of “sustainability initiatives” ranging from increased wages to measures aimed at curbing the company’s carbon emissions, is the target of a new report titled “Wal-Mart’s: Sustainability Initiative: A Civil Society Critique.” In that report, twenty-three environmental, farm, labor, and human rights groups charge that even if Wal-Mart meets its two-year old sustainability goals, its business model is inherently unsustainable. The report asks “Can a company claim to be “sustainable” when it drives down wages, refuses wages to some 20,000 minors working in its Mexican stores, pays unsustainably low prices to its suppliers (leading to sweatshop conditions), drives local stores and markets out of business, and disregards the wishes of the communities where it establishes its stores?”

The report’s key findings:

CRITIQUES OF WAL-MART’S SUSTAINABILITY COMMITMENTS

Organics: Although the company announced plans to expand organic products, the Cornucopia Institute has documented incidents of Wal-Mart misrepresenting conventional food products as organics and charges that the company has attempted to drive down organic prices by using factory farm products of questionable quality, including some from China and other countries where regulations are weak.

Sustainable Seafood: Wal-Mart has committed to selling only sustainable seafood in North America. However, according to Food and Water Watch, the certification program that Wal-Mart is using, the Marine Stewardship Council, has a record of accrediting fisheries with poor environmental records. Moreover, Food and Water Watch questions whether it is even possible to source seafood sustainably on the massive scale required by the world’s largest retailer.

Shrimp: Wal-Mart has committed to selling only sustainably farmed imported shrimp. The certification process will rely on weak standards developed without input from communities affected by the industry’s destruction of mangroves and other wetlands. Moreover, according to the Mangrove Action Project, enforcement is likely to be weak because third party reviewers are not truly independent.

Illegal Logging: Wal-Mart claims that it will remove illegal wood products from its supply chain. But the Environmental Investigation Agency charges that the company has failed to monitor its suppliers adequately. Moreover, Wal-Mart’s constant demand of decreased prices from its suppliers drives illegal logging, and some 47 percent of Wal-Mart’s wood-containing products are manufactured in China, which sources from countries known to have major problems with illegal logging.

Paper and Paper Packaging: Wal-Mart has committed to reduce its paper packaging, but has not taken important steps forward like endorsing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Due to the major environmental impact of logging and paper production, it is important for Wal-Mart to establish stringent standards for its suppliers.

Cypress Mulch: Wal-Mart is fueling the destruction of cypress forests, the Gulf Coast’s best natural storm and flooding protection, by distributing cypress mulch throughout the

country. Wal-Mart was proud of their relief work after Hurricane Katrina, but now the company is endangering coastal communities and important wildlife along the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Restoration Network and the Save Our Cypress Coalition are working to convince Wal-Mart to drop this unsustainable product.

Toxic Toys: Wal-Mart has committed to phasing out PVC plastic in packaging and some products and last year announced plans to restrict some of the most toxic chemicals from their products. However, according to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the company has not committed to eliminating toys made with phthalates and PVC plastic, despite the availability of safer alternatives.

CRITIQUES OF WAL-MART’S UNSUSTAINABLE MODEL

Global Warming: Wal-Mart’s goals for reducing global warming pollution leave many sources of greenhouse gases off the table. According to the Institute for Policy Studies and Friends of the Earth, the company’s supply chain creates more than 40 times the emissions the firm says it is aiming to eliminate. Combined with emissions from its retail operations, Wal-Mart’s greenhouse gases are the equivalent of about half the amount produced annually by France. Wal-Mart’s “cheap” imports are not cheap if you consider the estimated 2 million tons of annual carbon emissions associated with shipping from China to U.S. ports, pollution from inefficient non-U.S. trucking fleets, and the health impacts of port pollution on local communities. Wal-Mart’s contribution to sprawl has increased shopping travel to the point where traffic associated with its stores produces more carbon dioxide than all of its other U.S. greenhouse gas emissions combined.

Slashing Costs to the Bone: Wal-Mart’s CEO claims his vision for sustainability goes beyond green products to “people who live sustainable lives.” In reality, the company continues to squeeze workers and suppliers in a global “race to the bottom” in wages, benefits and working conditions. WakeUpWalMart.com charges that that no company has done more to feed our nation’s health care crisis, while American Rights at Work exposes the company’s aggressive interference with worker rights to form unions. On the international front, the International Labor Rights Forum, STITCH, ActionAid International USA, and Agribusiness Accountability Initiative document how Wal-Mart has used its market power to cut costs at the expense of workers and producers in the developing world. Food and Water Watch discuss the impacts on consumer safety as a byproduct of an unchecked food supply.

Undermining Communities: Wal-Mart’s massive scale undermines the independent businesses that form the fabric of healthy, sustainable communities. And despite the company’s claims to the contrary, numerous studies indicate that Wal-Mart destroys more jobs than it creates. Global Exchange and Centro de Investigacion Laboral y Asesoria Sindical (CILAS) look at how the company has hurt communities, jobs and the environment in Mexico, where it is also the leading retailer. Jobs with Justice and the American Independent Business Alliance share first-hand accounts of community impacts and resistance, while Good Jobs First documents how Wal-Mart has strained communities by pocketing massive subsidies – at least $1.2 billion to date.

Distorting Democracy: Wal-Mart has used its massive political clout to support an anti-sustainability agenda in the U.S. Congress. According to Corporate Ethics International, two-thirds of the company PAC’s campaign contributions in the last election went to candidates who earned failing grades from the League of Conservation Voters.

Industrial Woodworking Corporation Offsets 100% of its Carbon Emissions

Zeeland, Michigan – Industrial Woodworking Corporation (IWC) announced today that it has offset 100% of its carbon emissions with Carbonfund.org, the country’s leading carbon reduction and offset organization, through their CarbonFree™ business program. IWC has offset 100% of its emissions from electrical and natural gas use, management’s air travel and corporate vehicles. This step highlights IWC’s commitment to be a green leader in West Michigan’s furniture manufacturing community.

Considering the implications of climate change and the alarming evidence that is currently being presented from the scientific community, IWC sees carbon offsets as a business necessity and a natural extension of its mission.

The move also positions IWC’s new online, contemporary home office furniture sales company, Knú, as an entirely green and sustainable venture. Knú launches its website in September 2007.

“It is simply unconscionable not to do this,” said Brad Davis, CEO of Industrial Woodworking. “It is blatantly obvious that climate change is here now. We must act both on an individual and a business level to lessen our impact on the Earth.”

“IWC has been committed to environmental stewardship since we began in 1995,” Davis added. “We intend to lead by example, to show the furniture industry and our customers that a company can be very successful when it puts the environment first.”

“Carbonfund.org’s message to individuals and businesses is, ‘Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t.'” said Eric Carlson, Executive Director of Carbonfund.org. “IWC is doing exactly this by utilizing the most energy efficient technologies available and offsetting the energy it does have to use by supporting renewable energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal. IWC is reducing the amount of energy it needs and helping to ensure the energy it does need comes from renewable sources.”

Carbonfund.org is a non-profit organization whose goal is to make carbon offsets and climate protection simple, affordable and a normal way of life for every individual and business. Carbon offsets empower individuals and businesses to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in one location, where it is cost effective, to offset the emissions they are responsible for in their normal activities, like home, office, driving or air travel emissions. By supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reforestation projects Carbonfund.org offsets an equivalent amount of carbon offsets and is helping the development of clean, renewable domestic sources of energy.

Other Energy Saving Measures at IWC/Knú:

IWC’s newest plant addition, which has added over 10,000 square feet to the existing facility, will be using F-Bay fluorescent lighting which uses 30% less energy than traditional metal halide lighting and maintains 89.1% foot candle output over the life of the bulbs which have a 20% longer lifespan. Metal Halide only achieves 70% efficiency.

Winter heating is handled by infra-red heaters which use 23% to 25.5% less fuel than conventional forced air heating methods.

IWC’s Short Wave Infrared finishing ovens run on electricity, come up to temperature within 5 seconds and use light waves to cure finishes. Other furniture companies use gas fired ovens which can require up to an hour and a half to come up to temperature and then consume energy all day long maintaining that operating temperature.

Additional Information about IWC/Knú:

IWC has been using sustainably harvested wood products exclusively for many years and only works with suppliers who have a demonstrated commitment to sustainable resources and low impact raw materials.

Knú’s proprietary hardware is made from 40% recycled steel and it is 100% recyclable.

All finishing is accomplished with HAPS compliant or waterborne finishes utilizing the lowest volatile organic compound emissions possible.

Knú does not believe in the marketing of our products using catalogs, all product information will be available in a web only format. Not only does the creation of the catalogs destroy millions of trees annually, the delivery and disposal has an extremely negative effect on the environment.

All Knú products will be shipped directly to the customer from the place of manufacture thereby greatly reducing the environmental footprint of logistics.

IWC/Knú is dedicated to the principal “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.” Waste is reduced by mixing the minimum amount of materials needed for use that day, and by utilizing cut-to-size programs. We routinely salvage what would have been trash for use as raw material in other products. Nearly all of the packaging material from incoming shipments is recycled. From cardboard to skids to foam spacers, anything that can be recycled or reused is given a second life, and in some cases is used repeatedly.

About Carbonfund.org

Carbonfund.org is the country’s leading carbon reduction and offset organization. Carbonfund.org educates the public about the dangers of climate change and makes it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce their climate impact. Carbonfund.org is reducing the threat of climate change by promoting cost-effective carbon reductions and supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects globally that reduce and offset carbon dioxide emissions. Carbonfund.org works with over 100 corporate and non-profit partners including the National Wildlife Federation, Dell, IMD, Ovation Travel Group and Working Assets.

Video Explores Effects of Factory Farming in Michigan

A video produced earlier this year by the Michigan Sierra Club that explores the impacts of factory farming on Michigan is available online. The 24 minute video titled Living a Nightmare: Animal Factories in Michigan provides an illuminating examination of the water and air pollution, economic impacts, and health effects caused by the 200 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in Michigan. The video explores how pollution from these industrial agriculture operations is working its way into water supplies, due in large part to the near impossibility of managing the animal waste produced at these operations, with the larger ones generating as much waste each day as a city of 62,000 people. Based on research and environmental testing, it is the official position of the Sierra Club that “CAFOs simply cannot operate without polluting and that they are causing health risks to Michigan residents.”

For more information on more sustainable forms of agriculture, visit the Sustainable Agriculture links compiled by Aquinas College’s Center for Sustainability.

Grand Rapids City Commission Approves Sustainability Plan

On Tuesday, the Grand Rapids City Commission voted to adopt the “City of Grand Rapids, Michigan Sustainability Plan” in order to move Grand Rapids towards being a “sustainable city.” The plan, built in part on the guidelines developed by the Community Sustainability Partnership (CSP), “provides the policy direction in which residents, visitors, and employees within the City will receive municipal services and includes the vision of a sustainable City and community” in which each department within the City government will work to provide its services with respect to the “triple bottom line” principles of sustainability (economics, environment, and social responsibility). In order to oversee the Sustainability Plan’s implementation, the City is establishing a Sustainability Council made up of members of the City Commission, City staff, and community stakeholders who will collectively issue reports on the city’s progress.

State of the City Address and Economic Sustainability

At Saturday’s “State of the City” address, Mayor George Heartwell spoke on the theme of “economic sustainability” yet never really clarified what that term meant in a speech that discussed the need for a property tax increase and ways to support business in the city of Grand Rapids.

On Saturday, January 28, Mayor George Heartwell gave his 3rd State of the City address during a community breakfast at the DeVos Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The focus of the talk was on what the Mayor referred to as “economic sustainability,” even though the term was never really clarified. News coverage of the Mayor’s speech primarily focused on just one of the main proposals, the possibility of raising property tax for residents of Grand Rapids. The Grand Rapids Press ran as it’s headline on the day of the speech, stating simply “Mayor: GR needs tax hike.”

With all the focus on a possible property tax increase, little attention was given to the issues of government efficiency and the increased corporate welfare in the form of tax abatements discussed in the speech. The Mayor said that there was a need to find more efficiency in terms of the City budget and cited the examples of cutting down on paper work and the purchase of 2 electric parking enforcement vehicles, which he claims will save the City $3,000 a year. There was no mention of evaluating the salaries of administrative positions, such as City Manager and his support staff. Heartwell did mention that 63% of the City budget deficit was due to the cuts in state revenue sharing and that Commissioner Roy Schmidt was involved in a regional campaign to reclaim those funds, even though no strategy was presented on how that would be achieved, nor how citizens could get involved. The Mayor also mentioned the need to cut city staff health and pension benefits to be “in line with the private sector.”

Most of the Mayor’s speech was focused on a variety of tactics to support business growth and business development. He proposed a knowledge-based tax abatement as one way to do this, with tax incentives given to industry in the areas of health care, life sciences and environmentally sound business practices. This would lead to a greater possibility of more environmental friendly products being produced in West Michigan, such as alternative fuel cells. Heartwell also mentioned the need to partner with regional municipalities to create what he calls “sustainable business industrial parks.” These environmentally friendly industrial parks would promote buildings that are LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Here again, Heartwell provided no concrete examples, just possibilities.

Many of the ideas for this State of the City Speech came from a report put together by the Mayor’s New Economy Task Force. The report from this task force was released in December of 2005, with a number of recommendations that are reflected in Heartwell’s economic proposals. The report is extremely business friendly, which is not surprising when looking at who sits on the task force, as the majority of the members come from area corporations and development firms. Overall, the State of the City address clearly indicated that it is local corporations that matter the most in the economy, with president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Jeanne Englehart introducing the Mayor and the event itself being underwritten by AT&T, 5/3 Bank, Alticor, Amway Grand Plaza, Macatawa and Mercantile Bank. In her introductory remarks, the Chamber of Commerce President said that the Mayor was a great advocate for the underserved, yet nowhere in his speech were working people, the poor, or poverty mentioned in Heartwell’s State of the City speech.

Grand Rapids City Commission Establishes a Sustainability Policy for City Buildings

At its meeting last night, the Grand Rapids City Commission passed a resolution establishing a Sustainability Policy for City Buildings that sets standards for constructing, renovating, and managing City-owned buildings. The new policy requires that all city building construction projects (both new construction and renovation) examine the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles during the preliminary design phase of the project and conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine what principles should be used in the final project design. The policy further stipulates that all new building construction and renovation projects over 10,000 square feet and $1,000,000 in costs are required to obtain LEED certification. In addition, the policy recommends that the city buildings make use of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)

Energy Star and Green Lights programs, in addition to undertaking measures to promote water conservation, reduce energy use, make use of sustainable procurement practices for materials and supplies, and to promote alternative fuels.

The City of Grand Rapids and many builders in the area have begun undertaking sustainable construction measures. In 2004, the Water Department’s administration building became the first LEED certified building in the state of Michigan while the Grand Rapids area is home to 11% of LEED certified buildings in the country. Moreover, the LEED certification is not being adopted in isolation, but rather as part of a policy that is attempting to address climate change on the local level by reducing energy use.