This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Lifestyle changes aren’t enough: here’s how to make cities truly sustainable on Jul 8, 2021.
When it comes to lowering carbon footprints, much of the discussion is around giving things up, like driving less or using less energy. But it’s a privilege to have the resources and time to consider such changes. People still need to get to work and care for their kids. And many of the communities who are already feeling the greatest impacts of our changing climate are also dealing with environmental injustices. So, beyond lifestyle changes, we need big investments into unsexy things like infrastructure and retrofits. Up to 70 percent of a city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from its buildings, so that’s a great place to start. In New York City, a green bank is providing loans to install clean energy and renewable projects across the city and the surrounding region. The New York Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC)’s current suite of projects includes renovations on JOE NYC’s affordable housing in Brooklyn and the Bronx to improve energy efficiency. These upgrades are expected to lower energy and water costs by 25 percent. Similarly, the Marcus Garvey Apartments in Brooklyn had solar panels and energy storage added to some of their residential buildings to cut utility costs, improve grid reliability, and provide on-site energy generation in case of emergencies (like the increasing disasters expected with climate change). These changes will improve the quality of life for the hundreds of people who live in these buildings—and the millions of people who breathe the city’s air and feel its heat. And it will integrate so seamlessly into their lives that they might not even see the changes. Plus the cost savings from reduced energy bills and expenses can be used to repay the loans, which enables NYCEEC to then make a loan to another community. With a decade of experience supporting energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and energy storage projects, NYCEEC is working to improve people’s lives and reduce their carbon footprints, helping to make entire communities healthier, more resilient, and more equitable in the face of climate change.