Green Trends Underscore Earth Day Optimism

Planted "green roofs" provide many environmental benefits.© The Garland Company

Despite many a gloom-and-doom environmental scenario, Scripps-Howard News Service columnist Joan Lowy identifies five hot green trends underscoring Americans’ love for the environment as Earth Day approaches this Friday.

First and foremost is green car technology. Some 200,000 hybrid cars have been sold in the U.S. since 1999, and automakers will add as many as eight new gas-electric models in the coming year to the six already on the market.

Next is green buildings, with more than 200 new commercial and public structures in the last five years meeting or exceeding rigorous standards for energy efficiency, use of recycled materials, water conservation and other practices set by the U.S. Green Building Council. Also, almost 10 percent of new-home construction in some of the nation’s top housing markets meets Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star standards for high levels of energy efficiency.

Plant-covered green rooftops—which reduce storm-water runoff, air pollution, energy bills and the urban “heat island” effect—is another area where Americans are making strides, according to Lowy. Several major U.S. cities are adding thousands of acres of green roofs through various incentive programs.

Americans are also more and more inclined to purchase green energy. Lowy is especially intrigued by the prospects for wind energy, which has been growing 25 percent annually for each of the past five years, and which promises significantly increased production capacity over the next decade with the construction of ever-larger offshore wind farms.

Lastly, Lowy lauds efforts by chemical manufacturers to green up their product lines in the face of mounting pressure from environmentalists. Indeed, chemists have been working feverishly in recent years to develop chemicals that solve problems without adding to America’s pollution burden.

All in all, Lowy remains optimistic that these green trends bode well for America’s environmental future moving forward, despite the threats trumpeted by the skeptics.