Engagement, the Key to Sustainability!

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by Nicholas Brown.

People often argue about whether the economy or the environment is more important.
As they are both critical, we must find a way to protect both.
Fortunately, much can be done for both the environment without compromising the economy, and economic rewards accumulate even in the near term.

Sustainability means living within an acceptable carbon footprint and doing so in a cost-effective way. Efficiency and conservation are major pillars of sustainability — and show great promise over the medium and long term.
Sustainability means living within an acceptable carbon footprint and doing so in a cost-effective way. Efficiency and conservation are major pillars of sustainability, and show great promise over the medium and long term.

Mainstream methods of ‘going green’ involve building zero and low-emissions power plants, more efficient automobiles, and installing rooftop solar panels. The higher initial cost of more efficient power plants, more energy efficient cars and trucks, or the installation of solar panels is a major deterrent to their growth, so how can we encourage people to switch from dirty electrical power and toxic transportation fuels?

A fundamental way to achieve this is to reduce power requirements. The more power a household uses, the more expensive its solar system is going to be. Recessed lighting, for example, can consume up to six times more power than a basic, non-recessed lighting fixture.


Getting people to reduce their resource requirements involves education and encouragement. Therefore, I recommend the creation of an educational programme for schools which teach students the best known energy and water conservation tips from secondary school onwards, and shows them how big an impact that has on their finances, the environment, and the economy. They need to be engaged, as Masdar has been doing with the Engage contest.

Switch To Solar And Wind Power, After Reducing Energy Usage

Switching to solar and wind power is expensive. However, that cost can be significantly reduced by improving household and office energy efficiency. One major way to do that is reduce or even eliminate the use of recessed lighting, switching from incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent ones, or upgrading that old air conditioner and switching to a reasonably large standing fan.

For example: If solar panels (excluding installation) cost $2 USD per watt of generation capacity, then one 60-watt incandescent light bulb would require at least $80 of solar panels. Replacing that with a 15-watt fluorescent bulb would require 75% less solar power, so the solar panel required for that bulb could actually be 75% smaller, and much cheaper, resulting in a cost reduction of at least $60, and the fluorescent bulb costs only $4.

Imagine saving $56 on solar panels per bulb!

Sustainable Chemistry
The six pillars of Sustainability.

Convince Energy Contractors To Offer The Best Prices

Contractors generally don’t want to reduce their prices. However, they do want (and need) business, so they are likely to reduce their price to install solar panels per house in order to participate in large-scale projects, such as this idea:

Have one organization arrange to install solar systems on the houses of many people at once, then approach various contractors, tell them to offer their best prices and make a note of their quotations, then contact them again with the quotations of the previous contractors you visited, and convince them to lower their prices. Inviting them to compete against each other can drive prices down considerably.

Distill and Pump Water With Solar/Wind Power

Bottled water leads to a great deal of plastic waste, and even filtered water isn’t totally free of waste, as filters require replacement. This waste can be eliminated by using solar or wind energy to distill water. Solar thermal distillation for example, can be done with absolutely no energy storage, as the system could be sized to produce surplus clean water during the day for storage in cisterns.

Distilled water also happens to be the cleanest water on the planet. Regions of the world with water shortages can use environmentally friendly solar-powered desalination.

If you like this article, please vote for it on the Masdar Engage web page. Hover over the yellow star, then move the mouse down until you see all 5 stars show, then click.

Please visit the Masdar page where this article appears, at: Masdar/Nicholas Brown/The Key to Sustainability

Photo: Taraji Blue/Flickr

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