October 10, 2011 by Emma Stratford
The earth, like a teenager, is mostly covered in oil, grease and noxious pustules. Occassionally though, you can see a small sign of hope for the future in a clean, vigorous area, glowing with health. In the teenager it's generally where the acne medication has taken hold, but on the Earth it's those places where eco-friendly attitudes, words and thoughts have been put into practice.
Most Eco-Friendly Country - ICELAND
The environmental Performance Index scrutinizes the world’s nations on both their ecosystem vitality and their environmental public health. From 11th place in 2008, Iceland rocketed straight to the top in the latest rankings Iceland racked up an impressive 93.5 out of 100 – that’s 4.4 points ahead of the next best country, Switzerland.
While they achieved top marks in forestry, water effects and air pollution, Iceland is getting some additional natural help due to its ability to use the power of volcanoes for its energy needs. The same underground power that wreaked havoc on international air travel last year is used to generate Iceland’s electricity and other forms of energy. In fact, 82% of Iceland’s energy comes from hydrogen and geothermal sources – even using hydrogen-powered busses. Iceland isn’t content to rest on their laurels – they’re planning on being coal and oil free by 2050.
Most Eco-Friendly City - MASDAR CITY
The United Arab Emirates are known for their vanity projects, but Masdar City will give not only bragging rights, but also hopefully a model for other environmentally friendly cities. Located 11 miles from Abu Dhabi, the city will take advantage of the climate to rely on solar power and other renewable sources for the entirety of their energy needs. They aren’t just stopping with energy – automobiles will be completely banned and the city is going to try to reuse water until it’s as thick as syrup as well as attempting to recycle the entirety of its waste.
Obviously keen to impress the big names of environmental awareness, upon completion in 2025, Masdar City will also be the base for the International Renewable Energy Agency from which they can look disapprovingly at cities that aren’t as awesome as Masdar – so basically, everywhere.
Most Eco-Friendly Development - DOCKSIDE GREEN
The city of Victoria in Canada is the proud birthplace of this development which received the highest ever LEED score for new construction. This might not mean much to you if you’re not up to date with the intricacies of construction rating, but it’s a pretty big deal. A maximum of 69 points can be received from LEED, over six categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation and Design. Phase one of the development received a massive 63 points, with full marks in every category but Materials and Resources.
So, how did Dockside Green become so eco-friendly? Just a few of their practices include the use of wood-waste for all heat energy, their own waste-water treatment plant, green roofs and water and energy efficient fixtures and building practices.
Most Eco-Friendly Hotel - GYREUM ECO LODGE
Deep in the countryside of County Sligo, Ireland, lurks a little eco lodge and guesthouse, half-buried in the soil. It was constructed almost entirely from local renewable materials including wood from the local forests, and sheep’s wool and recycled fiberglass for insulation. Water is re-plumbed through a system of reed beds and ponds while heat and power is drawn from a combination of geothermal heat and wind turbine power.
The Eco-lodge will in future incorporate a living roof, for minimal impact on the landscape and solar panels. The lodge was the first to receive the European Union’s Eco Label. Incidentally, it’s aligned to a few solar events and surrounded by megalithic tombs, which, while not particularly eco-friendly is really cool.
Most Eco-Friendly Home - BEAR CREEK DOME
Geodesic domes had a brief surge of popularity in the 1950s, but they still aren’t a usual shape for a home. This is a pity, because they’re really exceptional for eco-friendly purposes. The Bear Creek Dome in North Branch, Minnesota has all the usual benefits of a geodesic dome, including increased strength while only using 40% of the lumber of a usual home, and natural heating a cooling. Bear creek dome us the ante by incorporating 16 inches of insulation and triple-pane windows to prevent energy loss. Despite outside temperatures of over 90 degrees, inside the dome the owners enjoyed a balmy low 70s – without any air conditioning or power use. Their yearly heating costs are less than $900, despite the bitterly old Minnesota winters.