By now we’ve all heard the arguments pro and con relating to climate change and I think most of us would agree that if mankind’s activities on the face of this planet are not the cause of climate change, they are, at the very least, making a significant contribution to it.

In November 2015 Canada’s newly elected Liberal government sent 300 delegates to the global climate change conference in Paris. The delegation outnumbered the Americans 2:1 and the UK by 3:1.

After sitting on the sidelines of the climate change debate for almost a decade and according to Catherine McKenna Minister of Environment and Climate Change “not even showing up at some global climate change conferences at all.” Canada is now prepared to take a leadership role internationally with a five-point plan:

~To act based on the best scientific evidence and advice.

~To support and implement policies that will contribute to the development of a low carbon economy.

~To work with all parties and governments within Canada to achieve these goals.

~To help developing countries throughout the world tackle the challenges of climate change.

~To view climate change as a historic opportunity to build a sustainable economy.

This last point is, in my opinion, the most salient of the bunch.

Most of us, regardless of our age, have wondered: “What kind of world will I be living in 10, 20, 40 or 50 years from now?” For the Millennials of today those questions might revolve around whether there will still be a Canada to enjoy and explore.  For the Baby Boomers it might be: “Will I be able to share with my grandchildren those things that I’ve enjoyed throughout my life? Will I be able to take them skiing, show them the awe-inspiring splendour of a living glacier, catch a fish or go for a paddle in a canoe on an unsullied river or lake?”

We all long for a better world, and we all know intuitively that preserving the natural environment is a big part of what we can do to improve things. Despite all the tales of corporate greed and governmental corruption and neglect, as individuals we all want to do our part to ensure a sustainable future.

We individuals, of course, also make up the corporations and governments. The question I’d like to ask is “Are we clear about the facts or are we allowing ourselves to be duped into thinking we’re making a significant contribution when in fact we’re not?”

What sector of our economy is the biggest consumer of energy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases?

  • Oil & Gas production
  • Agriculture
  • Building sector
  • Transportation
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy generation

If you guessed Building Sector you were correct by a long shot. The following American statistics are a good gauge for what’s going on in Canada as well; (There are no such condensed stats for Canada, or none that I could find). In the United States the building sector accounts for:

39% of Energy use

68% of electricity use

12% of water use

38% of carbon emissions

Collectively, this sector is responsible for the highest use of energy and is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases-more so than any other sector of the American economy. And when businesses need to change or expand their work spaces, that energy consumption and carbon footprint grows exponentially.

In the United States alone the demand for reconstruction, alteration and renovation of work spaces results in a mind-blowing 160 million tons of waste every year. 44% of which is attributable to renovations alone.

Whether this news to you or not I’d like ask. “Does this look like a sustainable model?”

The construction sector in the United States produces 40 billion square feet of drywall each year, generating 51 million tons of greenhouse gases while consuming huge amounts of energy.

Let’s face it: capturing rain water, recycling water, installing energy efficient light bulbs, double-sided printing and low-flow toilets and urinals alone aren’t going to cut it.

We have to start engaging new technologies and sustainable building techniques from the moment we decide to construct a new work space or renovate an old one. That’s if we hope to make a significant difference in the outcome.

If you want a better mouse trap, start by designing a better mouse trap.

Manufactured construction is one significant element in accessing a more sustainable method of construction. For starters most prefabricated architectural components are typically sourced responsibly using recycled or renewable materials and can be redeployed. Even if that redeployment rate is less than 100%, it is still far superior to the 0% redeployment rate of traditional drywall construction.

As one of the world’s wealthiest and most preeminent nations, Canada is investing wisely by taking an active role in finding solutions to the problems of climate change. To be effective, those solutions must include waste-reduction across the board, including the energy-guzzling building sector.

Is ignoring the problem, or not acting decisively the right path for Canada as a nation?

There is no future for us on this path, in my opinion.

Here’s the thing; acting boldly is not a win-lose proposition. We do not have to sacrifice economic growth in order to have an environmentally sustainable economy. We have the opportunity to do both-create growth while at the same time embracing new technologies and techniques to build a sustainable future.

As the folks at Nike like to say, “Just Do it”.

You tell me, what are we waiting for?