Zero Carbon In the Built Environment: You Can Make A Difference

Zero Carbon In the Built Environment: You Can Make A Difference

Based on research that the building sector accounts for almost half of the energy consumption (49%) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (47%) in the U.S, Architecture 2030, founded by Edward Mazria in 2002 established a challenge for the building sector to lower carbon emissions to zero carbon by 2030. 

The good news is, "The U.S. building sector has not increased its energy consumption since 2005 even though we have added over 50 billion square feet (4.7 billion square metres) to our building stock, and today CO2 emissions in the entire sector continue to decline and are down 30% from 2005 levels." 

The bad news is that the progress being made is not enough to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement which set a 1.5°C carbon budget so the challenge has been accelerated to 2021.

You may not be a developer working on a new master plan community in your city, but we all live somewhere and we make decisions every day that can help lower our carbon emissions. The real estate market is booming, architects, builders and designers are busier then ever and we the consumer and end user have influence on the decisions these experts make on our behalf.

Are you renovating your home? Local codes set a minimum standard, but there are often options available to go above and beyond. Alternative energy solutions to heat and cool your home such as solar panels are just one example. Burning fossil fuels directly in buildings accounts for 5.4% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and 35% percent of all domestic building-sector CO2 emissions so ask questions about alternative renewable energy sources. Check with your local utility company for rebates, upgrade windows, choose exterior paint, roofing materials and landscape to reduce energy costs.  Reduce water consumption by upgrading appliances, replacing an old water heater, switching to low flow toilets, fix dripping faucets and adjust irrigation systems.

Think about what a product is made of, where it is manufactured and what that company is doing to reduce their carbon footprint. Look for products that use certified wood from sustainable farms or renewable materials like bamboo.  There are also a growing number of companies using recycled materials to keep waste out of the landfill.

Upgrading your kitchen or bathroom, find an organization to take your old cabinets, appliances and fixtures. Donate your old furniture and shop second hand stores for yourself. These items are often better quality and have already released any harmful chemicals.

Collectively each small change we make as individuals has a huge impact on the planet we all call home. Below are some brands we believe are going above and beyond and our Inspiring Reads section has recommendations to read more on climate change and the built environment.

Thanks for reading,


We may receive a small commission from the links below, but we think these companies are worth sharing.

Doing It Right - aksfairtrade logo

Two sisters passionate about women's development and the planet established Aks which in Urdu language means reflection. 80% of women's lives in emergent nations is connected to textiles so they focus on manufacturing a product connected to the lives of women.  Hand embroidered sneakers are made using Fairtrade certified organic cotton with 100% natural rubber outer soles. No plastic, no man made synthetics, no toxic chemicals and no blends makes it safer for the women picking the cotton and saves 92% water compared to conventional cotton. The hand embroidery preserves a heritage craft and results are comfortable, beautiful, one of a kind, lightweight, naturally bio-degradable sneakers. What you wear is a reflection of you so shop AKS now.

Inspiring Reads -

Fund literacy and protect the planet when you buy books from Certified B Corporation, Better World Books. We hope the books mentioned below inspire your journey.

 Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity

Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity
by John D. Macomber

A healthy building does more than conserve resources: it improves the health and productivity of the people inside. Joseph Allen and John Macomber look at everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink to how light, sound, and materials impact our performance and well-being and drive business profit.

The Visual Handbook of Building and Remodeling

The Visual Handbook of Building and Remodeling
by Charlie Wing

Building a home is a complicated, precise, and labor-intensive process... This new edition has 48 pages of brand-new material--including new chapters on solar power and best-practice insulating--as well as the latest code information and updated sections on framing, sheathing, air sealing, and heating and cooling, enabling the reader to visualize exactly how to tackle any building project or problem. 

Good House Book : A Common-Sense Guide to Alternative Homebuilding: Solar, Straw Bale, Cob, Adobe, Earth Plaster, and More

Good House Book : A Common-Sense Guide to Alternative Homebuilding: Solar, Straw Bale, Cob, Adobe, Earth Plaster, and More
by Clarke Snell

What's important is finding the right solution to fit your individual needs, local climate, and natural resources. The broad range of topics covered include choosing a site; selecting materials; building with straw bale, cob, adobe, or rammed earth; and plugging into alternative home power systems. Interviews with six homeowners, and photos of the dream homes they built, provide invaluable insight.
Buy Books, Spread Literacy

In Case You Missed It - VIVAIA logo

VIVAIA offers a wide selection of comfortable, stylish women's shoes that are eco-friendly and zero waste by using upcycled materials and 3D technology. Plastic bottles are recycled to make thread, wool comes from happy sheep, infused herbs neutralize insole odors, carbon-free outsoles, simple packaging from recycled cardboard and a commitment to audit and monitor factory conditions for fair, safe employee first working conditions using renewable energy.  Flats are machine washable, heeled shoes hand washing recommended.  Click on your personal style and step into conscious comfort.

VIVAIA Boots   VIVAIA New Collections   VIVAIA Loafers   

VIVAIA-Eco-friendly Footwear

Santicler manufactures beautiful, easy to care for women's apparel, made with nontoxic materials from renewable resources for the lowest environmental impact . Committed to social responsibility, material ethically sourced and zero waste processes. Packaging is recycled or biodegradable materials without compromising on quality.  As summer winds down we encourage you to jump to their site and get ready for cooler weather with soft, luxurious apparel and accessories. Shop Santicler products.

East Fork Pottery takes a stand for social equality.  Partnering with community outreach organizations to stretch outside their comfort zone; paying employees a living wage, they are now working towards increasing wages to a family living wage.  Receiving Carbon Neutral Certification and B Corporation Certification has inspired them to make even greater changes. East Fork's About Page was part of our inspiration for starting The Savvy Elephant. AND we haven't even touched on how stunning and beautiful their pottery is!  See for yourself by clicking through to the East Fork Website.  

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