April 3rd, 2023
This Earth Day, We Have Opportunities for Education, Growth and a Louder Voice in Green Building
As with many things these days, it’s hard to believe that once upon a time people agreed on things. In 1969, Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin who was concerned about the state of the environment in the U.S., saw a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. He recruited others to organize college students to learn about the environment on April 22, 1970, falling between spring break and exams for maximum participation. Branding April 22 as Earth Day immediately got wider attention from the media and increased participation with organizations, including faith groups, schools, universities and others. At one point, early on, 10% of the U.S. population participated in Earth Day in some fashion.
By the end of 1970, Earth Day had support from both major political parties, rich and poor, city and rural Americans and business and labor leaders. To address the concerns raised and recognized, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created and the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Clean Air Act were all passed. Two years later, the Clean Water Act was passed, followed by the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
In 1990, these efforts went global, with 200 million people in 141 countries focusing on environmental issues. More information on the history of Earth Day can be found here.
This month marks the 54th Earth Day, on Saturday, April 22. Regardless of what anyone believes to be the cause of climate change, it is happening, and it affects us all. From increases in costs to decreases in variety and shortages at the grocery store; from extreme heat in the summer that strains power grids to meet cooling demands, to extreme cold in the winter and strains on the power grids for heating—we all see it. We all feel it.
What does this have to do with fenestration?
Simply put: What we do plays a key role in the solutions for the global community and for individuals. We have an opportunity to have a collective voice that ties what we do with environmental concerns and solutions. And right now that voice isn’t very loud. Even if you don’t feel it’s the fenestration industry’s problem or our responsibility, you can consider it an opportunity.
This year’s theme for Earth Day is “Invest in Our Planet.” Organizers note that “companies who’ve developed strong Environment Social Governance (ESG) standards are seeing better profitability, stronger financial performance and happier employees.”
In 2018, Forbes noted that “… energy efficient improvements can help your home stand out in a crowded market. In states like California that suffer from droughts and strained power grids, the benefits of installing energy-efficient measures are poised only to go up in the future.” It listed windows as the first energy-efficiency improvement for increasing a home’s value.
An article posted by Lansing City Pulse in February, on U.S. Census Bureau data from the 2021 American Housing Survey and a 2021 study by the National Association of Home Builders, notes that energy efficiency is a growing reason for renovations: A 2020 survey, released in 2021, found that more than 70% of U.S. homebuyers want at least one key energy-efficiency feature, such as Energy Star-rated windows or appliances, efficient lightbulbs, and triple-pane insulating windows.
In line with that trend, the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Housing Survey found that among respondents nationwide, 27.5% of their home improvements were made to increase energy efficiency—the most common reason, followed by increasing accessibility for the elderly or disabled and preparing a home for sale. In this survey, homeowners were asked if they had done any home remodeling or major improvements, excluding cosmetic updates like painting. Energy efficiency upgrades are efforts made by homeowners to reduce their energy consumption or energy loss, such as replacing appliances or adding insulation.
And windows do not get the credit they deserve. Too many still believe that an efficient building must have fewer and smaller windows. Consider this statement, in an article by CleanTechnica: “Window glass is responsible for an outsized share of energy loss. According to one estimate, climate control systems in buildings account for 14% of overall energy consumption in the U.S. and about 25% of that goes to waste through window glass in cold weather.” The article, however, doesn’t include one specific word from the source it references: “one-quarter of this energy is leaked through ineffcient [sic] glass windows in cold weather.” I added the emphasis on inefficient; the article that references the study eliminates the word completely. By omitting “inefficient,” the statement is that all glass wastes energy.
The industry can combat this all-too-common notion by touting the efficiency available in the products on the market today. It’s the main reason we have the “Why Windows Matter” campaign. It’s why the Partnership for Advanced Window Solutions was created, and it’s one reason Energy Star is putting more focus on promoting the doors, windows and skylights in the program.
In honor of Earth Day, I hope you’ll join us!