If you traveled in 2019, then you were aboard one of 40 million flights that had departed worldwide—more than 100,000 trips per day (ICAO). That number could explode in the coming years.

A solo airplane flying against a backdrop of the sky
A solo airplane flying against a backdrop of the sky

The effects of CO2 emissions from air travel create quite a conundrum for would-be environmentalists. This became apparent when I set out to trace my transportation and residential energy carbon footprint over the last 12 years.

While I had developed spreadsheets for accurately estimating per passenger transit emissions, along with meticulous record-keeping of my vehicle trips and home energy use, I was thunderstruck by the extent to which flight emissions consumed my overall carbon budget.

A personal assessment

From 2008–2019, I had averaged 3.5 economy class round-trip flights, domestic and international, for work and leisure. …

Three giant crosses — a taller one flanked by two smaller ones — still smoldered the next morning as my mother drove me to school. I sat in the back of our blue Plymouth Voyager minivan, my head pressed against the cold window, watching thick strands of smoke slither through the valley, the residuum of a Ku Klux Klan cross lighting the night before.

I was 12 years old; my sister, 9. My father worked at the glass mould factory, my mother at the county courthouse. Our neighbors — they toiled in the coal mines and steel mills and chemical…

A brief look at what sustainability means today in the context of green construction, what sustainability might come to mean in the future, and how ultra long-term thinking can radically change our notion of all things sustainable.

The term “sustainability” has been given several definitions over the years. In 1976 Robert Stivers described sustainability as an economy “in equilibrium with basic ecological support systems.” In 1987 the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Our initial foray into small-scale urban farming quickly turned into a trailblazing adventure, an examination of what environmental stewardship and occupant satisfaction mean outside conventional frameworks, and a race to attain LEED certification.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, the driving force behind the green building industry in the U.S. and 30 other countries. While LEED isn’t the only certification program out there, it’s undoubtedly the most popular. So I got to thinking: For several years, commercial-scale facilities, apartments and homes have benefited from this evolving framework for sustainable design, construction and maintenance of buildings. But where is the LEED or LEED-equivalent rubric for smaller dwellings, such as backyard chicken coops?

On a typical non-farm property, a chicken coop…

Gavin Platt

Multidisciplinary product and design leader. Aspiring comic.

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