Musings in Sustainability
The philosophical underpinnings of our work
The Sustainability profession is rapidly evolving to respond to fast-changing challenges and ever emerging tools and technologies available to assist with the work.
Pax staff and collaborators are continually keeping up on the latest trends and strategies to ensure our clients have the benefits of the most current approaches. In this section, we explore some of these emerging areas of thought and theory.
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Sustainability Leads to Abundance
When we first stated working in earnest to address climate change, the concept of "reducing our greenhouse gas footprints" naturally seemed to equate to "doing with less" and a sense of scarcity. However, as I have worked in this profession, I've come to see a different future, one of abundance of the things that make us happy. The solutions to climate change are creating new jobs in clean energy, water conservation, and innovative transportation systems. Additionally, they result in community-building by creating spaces and activities where people interact. Those things include pedestrian and bike infrastructure, shared amenities like parks, pools, and other recreational facilities where we can get to know our neighbors. Centering solutions that address the needs of the people with the greatest need reduces stress by addressing the needs of marginalized people. This results in co-benefits such as reducing poverty and associated crime which make our communities safer; moving our bodies more which improves public health; and interacting with each other ore which reduces loneliness and stress. These in turn improve public health and and reduce healthcare costs. Other reduced costs include, for example, lower transportation costs of electric vehicles, improved public transportation and easier use of walking and biking. Pax Consulting focuses climate change solution-development on those that have the greatest co-benefits for the greatest overall return on investments.
GHG Emission-Free Electricity
Many states and utilities have committed to providing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-free electricity in the next 20 to 25 years. As the electricity supply become “cleaner”, shifting fuel sources to electricity will reduce greenhouse gas emissions with no change in lifestyle and few changes in our habits. In many cases it will reduce costs. Electric vehicles (EVs) for example have a lower cost of ownership, in large part due to the fact that they are almost maintenance free as they have fewer moving parts and no combustion or need for oil. There have been recent advances in air-to-air heat pumps which both heat and cool buildings like an air conditioner that works in both directions, moving heat either into or out of the building depending on the season. This type of equipment used to lose efficiency in temperatures below zero Fahrenheit but newer models keep their efficiencies to about -13 F.
The strategy of moving to “all electric” homes, cars, and other things that use energy is a good strategy as electricity sources become cleaner but some things aren’t ready for electric conversion yet. Large trucks, such as garbage trucks and others, aren’t ready for electric motors. Alternatives are efficient compressed natural gas (CNG) engines. Newer models have near-zero emissions. The impacts of using GNG however come from the extraction and leaks in the pipelines needed to get CNG to the pumps. Advances in extraction have mixed results but in general are improving but finding and eliminating leaks along very long pipelines is difficult since natural gas is invisible and odorless. New satellites are being employed that are designed to take images in light spectrums that can identify larger leaks to focus pipeline repairs where needed. These efforts to reduce the impacts getting natural gas to the pumps is critical since natural gas, also called methane, is itself a greenhouse gas and its warming potential is 25 times higher than carbon dioxide. To understand greenhouse gases and their relative warming potentials, check out the EPSs website.
Why We Call Ourselves "Pax"
Working over many years as a sustainability professional, I have come to see that the end-game this work advances leads to people and our institutions moving towards being in a balanced and peaceful relationship with our natural environment and each other. Pax is the Roman goddess of peace. Pax Consulting represents working to move our world to more peaceful relationships by a woman-led business. As we are emerging, this means working in collaboration with other professionals who form teams with us based on the needs of each client. Over time, as we grow, it means giving employees ownership in the business so they share in the benefits of our success and become personally invested in its success. It means seeing ourselves, our clients, and the communities we work in, as a collection of people who are human, with all the complexities and wonder that each individual brings to the interactions we have, and leveraging the unique opportunities that brings to the work