Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region

Some criticism of sustainable technologies.

Sustainable technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal heating are just really starting to take off. The more these type of technologies are used and become popular, the more efficient they can become, allowing  different and new types of technology to emerge onto the marketplace.

There are criticisms of many of the systems and those who use them will surely tell you they are not without their flaws. Some of the first earthships created, for example, were designed in such a way that they produced excessive, unlivable amounts of heat. They had to be tweaked and perfected in such a way that would address the problems so that they could be livable. As a result, newer earthships are better designed and more comfortable to live in. They needed to be used, tested and tried to even discover what the real problems were to be able to even begin to address them.

Tree hugger

Renewable energy and sustainable technology is really only at its infancy. We are just beginning to realize the true potentials and possibilities that are out there. The best is yet to come.

One of the biggest problems I see with many of the renewable energy technologies (such as solar, geothermal and wind turbines) being truly sustainable is the resources that they require in batteries or heavily mined materials to manufacture them. All batteries require mined metals and minerals that are non-renewable and incredibly waste intensive. Many of the technologies are also incredibly waste intensive during their manufacture, distribution or at the end of their lifecycle, as they wind up in landfills leaching toxins into the garbage soup that may eventually find its way into our groundwater.

Sustainable means thinking about the entire lifecycle of a product, not just how much energy it will save during its usage. How much energy went into its manufacture? How much waste was created? How far did it travel? Where will it go when its done being useful? Will it wind up in a landfill, or can it be recycled? I always like to add to this, was it created/distributed/disposed in a manner respectful of all human rights, because to me, this is also part of being truly sustainable. If a product was manufactured using slave labour or disposed of in a way that will toxify other human beings– it is definitely not sustainable.

So what’s best to use? Which technologies are best? How should we live our lives in the most sustainable way?

There’s no magic answer. Mostly, because the way the world is set up right now, it’s next to impossible to really find out the full details of every product you are using, even if you wanted to. The average product makes at least 10 stops along the way before it ever reaches our stores and we throw it away when its finished its use with little regard for where it will truly end up. This is not being sustainable. There are many great technologies out there waiting to come out and many companies trying to be as fully sustainable as possible, but unfortunately they are being shrouded by all the greenwashing that’s out there.

It’s time to stop greenwashing, and instead really focus on being truly sustainable. This won’t happen overnight, and will take some trial and error. It will take companies looking into the entire lifecycle of their products and finding ways to reduce their impact overall, people wanting to be more conscious and governments strong enough to make responsible legislation.

If you find faulty “green” claims out there or cases of greenwashing- you can report them under the Competition Act.


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Geothermal power uses mined materials and batteries? Perhaps using sweeping statements to make cryptic (and inaccurate) points is
not the best way to convince others of your
argument. How can you be upset about products that have much smaller energy footprints, have lower emissions and bring attention to the problems and limitations of traditional power sources? It is unfortunate that we live in a world of physics where producing anything takes a conversion of energy. But are you suggesting that we change over to an alternate universe? I see little useful data here – from a physical science or a grounded philosophy perspective.

Comment by Mike L

Hi Mike,

Thank you for your comments on my blog, but I think you misunderstood my point entirely. I am not upset about renewable energy technologies in the slightest and am actually a huge promoter of their usage (if you continue to read on in my blog you will see this).

Firstly, geothermal power does use mined materials for its manufacture– for parts of its heat pump and many other components (it has many metal parts!) and the extraction of metal is an incredibly wasteful and energy intensive process, not to mention quite often human rights abusing. Most also actually use batteries for their testing equipment during installation, although this is on a much smaller scale than wind or solar that use them for storage of energy. Not exactly sure how I am being cryptic or inaccurate in that. The majority of the system is manufactured with metal, or petroleum products– what do you think the systems are made from?

Secondly, my point with this article was to say that we need to be smart and responsible about what we start mass-producing, not to disrespect the technologies in existence. We need to think about more than just the energy savings during one part of the product’s lifecycle and start thinking about the ENTIRE lifecycle. I’m not talking about reducing energy usage to 0–that’s completely unreasonable and would require an alternate universe as you say– I’m talking about trying to reduce the waste and energy to the minimum amount we can when manufacturing these type of products and also at the end of their usage– and what’s the problem with that? That makes them MORE sustainable and that’s a good thing in the long run from both cost and environmental perspectives.

Should we not to try to reduce the waste and energy usage along the entire lifecycle of these type of products and instead just bury our heads in the sand about their footprint? Isn’t that the whole point of using renewable technologies– to be more sustainable to have a smaller footprint?

Comment by kwarearealestate

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