Zero Emission Day: When the World Stops to Take a Breath

It is no secret that the world is burning up. Literally. July 2017 was recorded as the 2nd warmest month in the history of the world, since 1880. Global warming has the earth curling up its toes and one of the prime reasons for this rapid change are the greenhouse gas emissions.

Tremendous amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and fluorinated gases, are released into the atmosphere every day, due to the day-to-day activities of the global population. Excessive use of electricity, fossil fuel emissions, improper treatment before disposal of industrial effluents, etc. are all responsible for the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The rising temperature of the planet, increase in sea level, change in weather patterns, and more has led to an unprecedented increase in natural disasters, all across the world. One of the reasons why hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which left a wake of destruction in Texas and Florida, were identified to be larger in magnitude than usual, was climate change. And it doesn’t stop here. NASA’s Earth Observatory has predicted that global warming will be a huge catalyst in speeding future catastrophes as well!

The Birth of Zero Emission Day

To counter the impact of climate change on the world, an ingenious concept was introduced by Ken Wallace of Nova Scotia, Canada, in the 1980s – giving our planet one day off every year. This clarion call for stopping all emissions for one day was taken up by the world and September 21 started being celebrated as Zero Emission Day.

The idea of ZeDay is simple.

  • No use of gasoline, oil, gas, or coal
  • Minimum use of electricity (complete elimination, if possible), except for emergency services

The idea took hold internationally, with people making sincere efforts to reduce their carbon consumption for at least a day.

The Current Scenario

Today, concrete efforts need to be made to stop the juggernaut of climate change, before we find ourselves in a world too hot to live in. One of the ways in which this can be done is by making an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of industries, by ensuring sustainable design in construction.

What is Sustainable Design and How Can it Help?

‘Sustainable design seeks to reduce negative impacts on the environment, and the health and comfort of building occupants, thereby improving building performance.’ – GSA

As the definition implies, the sustainable design takes into account every factor that can have an adverse impact on the environment and works to find an optimum solution for maximum efficiency. This includes several ways including minimization of non-renewable energy resources, increased use of renewable energy, use of environment-friendly products, etc.

Some of the innovative solutions included in the sustainable design are:

  • Solar Power Systems

Apart from the use of solar energy to generate electricity, the sustainable design incorporates the use of sunspaces and Trombe walls to ensure natural heating during winter. Another example is daylighting, where natural sunlight is used to light the interior of the building, thereby reducing the use of electricity.

  • Appropriate Ventilation and Air Conditioning

Optimizing the ventilation process so that maximum efficiency of air conditioners can be achieved is a part of sustainable design.

  • Greenhouse Gas Emission Optimization

Massive use of electricity in commercial spaces is one of the primary reasons of increased greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable design endeavors reduce the building’s energy intensity, thus improving building performance.

  • Water and Sanitation Treatment

Reduction in wastage of potable water and improved methods of sanitation to avoid the spread of diseases is one of the objectives of sustainable design. This also includes treatment of industrial effluents before waste disposal.

The holistic approach of sustainable design has a significant impact on the carbon emission of the building and positively affects all aspects of the project, including building life, operation, and human interaction.

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