Can Everything Be Green?

Walker Wells's picture
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As the current fascination with all things green grows with leaps and bounds, the question arises – are there any limits to what can be green?

In recent weeks I have seen articles in the Los Angeles Times magazine about how environmentalists are teaming with Wall Street investment banks to create green investment products and that a group of green leaning investors purchased the Texas-based utility TXU. Right down the street from my office is the world's first green parking structure. Can Wall Street, the belly of short-horizon, profit-based capitalism beast truly be developing an environmental consciousness? Can a hydrocarbon-based utility ever become green, no matter what commitments it makes to stop burning coal and reduce carbon emissions? Is greening a warehouse for one of the most egregious environmental villains– the personal automobile – an exercise in inspired design or futility?

Well, I think that for sustainability to have the possibility to effect the status quo in a meaningful way these types of turn-the-stereotype-on-its-head efforts are exactly what is needed. So I encourage us to find the green opportunity where nothing seems to exist, in the rooftop, sidewalk, alley, city yard, landfill, general plan, air quality management plan, economic development plan.

By looking beyond the self-imposed boundaries about what is green and what is not, we may be able to see the opportunities for synergy and integration that can make green an expectation rather than a newsworthy aberration.

(I had the chance to talk in some depth about these issues a couple of weeks ago on the KCRW program Design and Architecture.)

Walker Wells is director of the green urbanism program for Global Green USA and a lecturer at Pomona College and UCLA.

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