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The confused color green

 

One of the most beaten to death topics of the last 20 years is the idea of living green. A definition over-utilized and “under-understood,” abused by capitalism, “green” advocates, soccer-moms, hipsters and hippies, we are left questioning whether living green is realistic in our power and money hungry society, or if it is simply a fad. Is anything truly green? And how do we define such a “colorful” ideology?

American Heritage dictionary defines it as: “Green (grĕn)…9. Lacking training or experience. 10A. Lacking sophistication or worldly experience, naïve. B. easily duped or deceived; gullible. 11. having a sickly or unhealthy pallor indicative of nausea or jealousy, for example. 12. Supporting or beneficial to environmentalism.

Denver locals enjoy the climate. Photo Landen Crespin

Four years ago, Popular Science magazine rated Denver number 20 out of the 50 greenest cities. Compiling data from the U.S. Census Bureau as well as the National Geographic Society’s Green Guide their analysis categorized the 50 cities based on four criteria, Electricity, Transportation, Green Living, and Recycling and ‘green perspective.’

A Newsweek-attached outlet called The Daily Beast, rated Denver as 22nd greenest in 2012 based on similar criteria to the broadly scoped PopSci article, Eco-conscious residents, non eco-conscious residents, recycling conscious residents, public transportation trips per capita, and homes with solar heating.

However, the ambiguity appears to come from the data on which these ratings are based, either broad, non-representative averages, or nonsense. The statistics from an April 2, 2012 Time News Feed article rates Denver as the 4th greenest city behind Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Savannah, Georgia, and  Portland, Oregon.

These rankings appear to be based on vague comparisons, like the number of ‘verdant’ (another “green” descriptor which is again, a convenient synonym for naive) parks in each city, and the fact that the Museum of Contemporary art on 14th and Delgany St., downtown is home to a rooftop garden and green themed art. That’s green…?

Attrition and riddles be damned.

The many components of our environment are degrading, and even if we don’t care about white bears starving and drowning on some northern, subservient latitude, or if certain things go to compost rather than the landfill, we can still live sustainably and comfortably. Denver has taken a few steps in the right direction. Let’s see how the Mile High City is being innovative and defining itself as an “environmentally friendly metropolis.”

Electricity.

Small, expensive steps like wind, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric power as well as incentives for residents to adopt and invest in their own power sources are what compose green electricity.

Denver’s Xcel Energy plans to generate 12-percent of its energy from renewable sources as well as cutting coal from 72 to 48-percent and increasing renewable energy to 19-percent by 2018, they expect nitrogen and sulfur oxides as well as airborne mercury to drop 80-percent

Transportation.

Denver has its foot in the door. In metro Denver, the largest taxi service, Metro Taxi prides itself on having Colorado’s greenest taxi fleet even though it had planned on converting the entire fleet to hybrid vehicles by 2010 it is comprised today of 15-percent hybrid vehicles.

Former Mayor, Wellington Webb initiated the GreenFfleet program in the early 1990’s which would later include 138 hybrid vehicles, part of which is comprised by the free Mall Ride which is used to this day. Denver realizes the benefits of alternative fuels and public transportation with vast Lightrail and bus routes.

Chicago boasts 147 miles of bike friendly roads and many more miles of designated bike trails, but they barely beat Denver. Coming in as the 12th most bike friendly infrastructure in the nation according to Bicycling magazine, we also boast a vast, easy to use bike sharing program.

Where's the bike path? Flooding on Speer & Larimer. Photo Meredith Dahlstrom

Green living.

Denver’s Green Print Initiative is designed to reduce emissions from generated electricity by providing solar and weatherization services to households and businesses. The initiative will replace 200 incandescent pedestrian traffic signals (2,000 bulbs) with LED bulbs, reducing energy use by 85-percent.

Denver is addressing and managing the risk of global climate impacts like “Chinese dust,” or carbon in our snow which increases the absorption of energy in our otherwise reflective snow leading to low snowpack.

Ultimately, Denver would like to reduce dependence on foreign oil supplies through this initiative while considering the supply and demand of the city, a “complex energy challenge.” The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan attempts to lower reliance on cars, and along with Amendment 37 requiring that 10-percent of the city’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2015 we are at least looking in the right direction.

Recycling and green perspective.

Denver Recyles, offers free recycling to single and multi-family homes (up to seven units) at no cost to residents. As well as providing recycling for hazardous household materials, appliances, electronics and composting.

A quick search on Google Trends reveals that the terms “going green,” or “living green” were first searched between about February and April of 2007 and remain relatively and comparatively steady today in 2012. While the ideology may have originated as early as 1970, today’s circumstance casts a daunting shadow on the future. Greening propaganda may be perfect for capitalism, but drastic, irreversible damage is guaranteed within 50 years. If we approach “going green” realistically, as individuals and eventually as communities we can adhere to sustainability and live in the same realm of happiness and functionality as we do currently.

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