Currently, most of the world is in the grip of a totally unsustainable lifestyle, powered by fossil fuels.
Speaking of petroleum deposits alone, giant oil company Beyond Petroleum says we may have a little over fifty years of oil left in the ground. Of course, we could turn to some other reliable fuel source, such as nuclear fission. Some research indicates that, even if we switched to nuclear power alone, we’d only have about twenty years of nuclear fuel.
In either of these cases, however, there are serious environmental implications of their continued usage. Nuclear power generates nuclear waste, which we still haven’t come up with a way to dispose of safely. Also, one only has to mention Fukushima or Chernobyl to recall the inherent dangers.
Continued fossil fuel usage, even if it’s only for the next fifty years, will continue to pump untold amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, adding to it-may-already-be-too-late-to-address climate change. One way or another, we’ll have to learn to live without fossil fuels, either by choice or by force, so where will we live?
Zero Energy Homes
There are a few names for these homes, Net Zero Housing, Zero Energy, Passive House, to name a few. The idea is simple: A Zero Energy Home uses no more energy than the home itself generates, effectively eliminating the need for a power grid connection, which is typically powered by fossil fuels. We all have energy requirements when it comes to our living spaces, including lighting, entertainment systems, communications, cooking, and climate control, to name a few, and our monthly energy bills, not to mention our carbon footprint, reflect our energy-hungry lifestyle. On the other hand, proper construction and energy management can actually eliminate monthly utility bills.
From the most basic point of view, because there are no real standards in the industry, yet, zero energy homes start with smart design and construction techniques, good insulation, leak-free construction, and allowance for seasonal ambient lighting. Add in renewable energy sources, such as geothermal heating, photovoltaic solar panels, even residential wind turbines, and a backup battery system. Finally, installing efficient appliances and cutting out unnecessary items reduce energy consumption to just the essentials. The end result of a Zero Energy Home is complete independence from fossil fuels, significantly reducing our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
Photo credit: Green Energy Futures