On Friday, October 3, a group convened at Utah Valley University to discuss how we in Utah can live more with less. The keynote speaker was author and educator, Richard Heinberg, who is best known for his books, Snake Oil and The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.
Heinberg suggests we make four systemic changes to “live more with less.”
Energy. We not only need more reliance on renewable energy but we need to restructure how we use energy. The United States is an energy glutton and we’re going to need to be more efficient about our use. Unplugging devices when they aren’t in use, switching to CFL light bulbs, and installing energy-saving appliances is a great start to reducing energy use. Every bit adds up to drastically cut emissions.
Transportation. We’ll also have to rely more on public and active transportation to get around and, in general, learn to be less mobile. Future cities, says Heinberg, should be designed to help citizens get around without requiring a car.
Efficient Buildings. We’ll also have to continue constructing buildings more efficiently. Many buildings in the U.S. require tremendous energy for operation and we need to cut down on their energy requirements.
Food. Finally, Heinberg said we need to redesign our food system because it is currently entirely dependent on fossil fuels. From irrigation systems to pesticide use, fossil fuels are used in every step of the agricultural process.
The good news is that these changes are attainable. In fact, Salt Lake City is already working on many of Heinberg’s suggestions. We’ve recently installed a 1 megawatt solar farm and have solar panels on several of our City buildings. The recent completion of the Public Safety Building reflects that we can be more innovative with our new buildings and design them to be net zero for energy.
In addition to these efforts, one of SLCgreen’s newest programs, Project Skyline, aims to help building owners across the city to exceed the air quality and energy-saving targets of Sustainable Salt Lake – Plan 2015 by evaluating their building’s energy use, setting energy savings goals, and conducting energy-saving improvement projects.
Heinberg also suggested ways for individuals to implement changes in their communities. We can begin building up community connections and the idea that “we are all in this together.” Each of us can prioritize the health of our local environment, and work towards intergenerational solidarity. Heinberg also included that we must orient ourselves toward seeking happiness, finding satisfaction in honest work, and making meaningful art.
You can learn more about Richard Heinberg’s work at RichardHeinberg.com.