Updated: Jun 9
To celebrate 50 years of Earth Day it’s important we recognize the progress NYC has made in becoming more sustainable through initiatives like the NYC Carbon Challenge, NYC Zero Waste and GreeNYC, among others.
New York City’s commitment to an 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 has quickly and dramatically raised the profile of one initiative - the Passive House standard - a set of design principles and a voluntary standard for energy efficient buildings developed by the Passive House Institute in Darmstadt, Germany.
In New York City, buildings over 25,000 square feet are responsible for at least 70 percent of all carbon emissions and buildings over 50,000 feet, including luxury high rises and multi-family buildings, consume almost half of all energy.
Concerned New Yorkers are turning their home search to Passive Houses, which are well insulated, use dramatically less energy than typical buildings, often rely on renewable energy sources, and are more resilient against power outages. These design principles are also beneficial for occupants, providing excellent indoor air quality, improved thermal comfort, and high ventilation rates.
The Passive House standard relies on several fundamentals: deep thermal insulation of the building envelope to minimize heat loss and gain; triple glazed windows with shading that modulate heat loss or gain; an airtight building envelope; minimized thermal bridges; and continuous ventilation with energy recovery.
More buildings are adhering to these standards and you can search for Passive House buildings using this interactive map. If you aren’t in the market for a new home, use these six techniques to turn your abode into its own healthy, eco-friendly environment.
Use LED light bulbs
LEDs have an extremely long lifespan relative to every other lighting technology (including LPS and fluorescent lights but especially compared to incandescent lights). New LEDs can last 50,000 to 100,000 hours or more. The typical lifespan for an incandescent bulb, by comparison, is 1-5% as long at best (roughly 1,200 hours). They are also extremely energy efficient relative to every other commercially available lighting technology. There are several reasons for this including the fact that they waste very little energy in the form of infrared radiation (heat), and they emit light directionally (over 180 degrees versus 360 degrees which means there are far fewer losses from the need to redirect or reflect light).
This 2-bedroom garden apartment is located in an exceptionally energy efficient Bed-Stuy townhouse.
Invest in an air purifier
The typical American home is built with materials that are laden with toxic chemicals. The most common is formaldehyde, which is found in most plywood, particle board, and other pressed wood products used to make furniture, cabinets, shelves, and counter tops. A sure-fire way to improve air quality in your home is to invest in any of these air purifiers based on your lifestyle and price range.
This Water Mill, NY getaway is LEED-certified and qualifies for the NYS Real Property Tax Exemption for Green Building. In addition to a whole laundry list of energy-efficient features it has geothermal heating/cooling and solar panels.
Buy natural cleaning products
The current most frequently sought-after cleaning products are mostly made up of lots of harsh chemicals that pollute our water and harm our health. Plenty of brands have started to offer alternatives in the form of more sustainable ingredients but you can make your own cleaning solutions with eco-friendly ingredients like sodium bicarbonate, white vinegar, and essential oils. Here’s how to make natural cleaning products.
Insulate your home
EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs (or an average of 11% on total energy costs) by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces, and accessible basement rim joists. Whether it’s covering leaks with weatherproofing, adding thick curtains or sealing drafty doors, you first need an energy assessment, also known as a home energy audit, which will help identify areas of your home that are in need of air sealing.
Swap out your current shower head
In the United States alone, showers are the third-largest point of water consumption. If you're looking to conserve water, a great way to do that is to install one of the best water-saving shower heads. These low-flow heads deliver just enough water to rinse shampoo and conditioner without wasting unnecessary amounts, and there are plenty of options, from affordable ones to ones that are loaded with features.
60 White Street, a landmarked 1860's cast iron building has been carefully restored and thoughtfully designed to be environmentally friendly.
Set a programmable thermostat
It will automatically adjust the heat or the air-conditioning to match your daily patterns. You won’t waste energy while your home is empty, and you won’t have to remember to turn the thermostat up or down. Want to do better? Turn it down two degrees in the winter and up two degrees in the summer and you’ll keep nearly 880 pounds of carbon dioxide from warming the earth. Check out Business Insider’s top thermostats.