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Going, Going. . .Green



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THE SINGING MUPPET was metaphysically astute—and prophetic. Kermit the frog told us, “It’s not easy being green.” In today’s vocabulary, “green” means environmentally friendly. And while there’s been a landslide of products, services, laws and initiatives—and a growing realization we can take better care of our natural resources—being green is still not easy.

Reesey Shaw knows this firsthand. The director of Lux Art Institute, which opened last November, spent nine years getting the doors open on California’s first green museum.

“It’s more costly to be green—doing this cost us about 10 percent more,” says Shaw. She says $5 million had been spent before opening, “and we had some conservative folks on our board who weren’t sure green was the way to go. But we all now see this is the wave of the future.”

Lux Art Institute, built on 4.5 acres in Encinitas, is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The project includes a 5,000-square-foot artists’ pavilion equipped with solar panels and is designed to use renewable energy sources. It makes use of green cleaning products, has bike racks, ample recycling bins and multiple skylights.

Shaw says when her group set out on its mission in 1998, she didn’t think it would take so long to build a green museum. “I immediately booked shows for 2000—little did I know we wouldn’t even break ground until 2002,” she says. “LEED certification requires more layers of oversight. And on the political side, it’s really only been within the past year and a half now that you’ve begun hearing politicians bragging about having green buildings in their districts.”

How green is San Diego in general?

We didn’t make the cut in a recent Popular Science ranking of America’s greenest cities. But Sperling’s Best Places ranks us 12th in the nation—ahead of San Francisco (19th) and way in front of Los Angeles (66th). That poll takes into consideration air and watershed quality, mass transit usage, power consumption, farmers’ markets, organic producers and number of green-certified buildings.

Could we all be doing better?

Absolutely, says Tim Barnett, a research marine physicist at the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Barnett is one of nearly two dozen SIO researchers in La Jolla who contributed to the United Nations–sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC and former vice president Al Gore are co-recipients of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

“We found the fingerprint of man on climate change,” says Barnett. “Frankly, the nature of the problem is so severe, we’re already late in acting on it—maybe 10 years too late.”

He’s been doing climate-change detection and attribution since 1988. His take on Gore’s spate of awards, including the Nobel and an Oscar for the movie An Inconvenient Truth? “As a scientific community, we couldn’t articulate the problem of global warming,” says Barnett. “[Gore] was able to do that, and I applaud him for it . . . Do I feel connected to his awards? No. It’d be nice to say yes. If somebody wants to send me a plaque, I’ll certainly hang it on my wall—but then I’ll still keep doing what I’m doing.”

We’ve discovered there are an evergrowing number of ways to do whatever it is you do in an eco-friendly manner. The city of San Diego, for example, has adopted mandatory recycling. More LEED-certified buildings, including the new Children’s Museum, are on the way. Restaurants, theaters, Web sites—and even the business of diapering babies—are going green. The following pages illustrate some of the ways San Diego is participating in this national trend. No, it’s not always easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.
—RON DONOHO

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