Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Science and Policy

First Advisor

Thomas Jewell




environmental health, greenhouse gas, efficiency, energy, green


As our country continues to grow and prosper we are faced with a growing number of environmental issues. While many of these issues were ignored in the pursuit of economic growth, we are now facing the harsh realities of our unmitigated expansion. The continual mining and use of fossil fuels has scarred our landscapes, polluted our air, and contaminated our waterways. Our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are higher than ever and contributing heavily to global warming. With the United States’ population constantly on the rise and projected to hit 350 million in little over a decade1, it appears that our situation will only get worse unless some major changes are carried out. Unfortunately, change rarely comes when it is not profitable. Both companies and consumers are driven by profits. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Such a mentality has helped sculpt the United States into the most prosperous country in the world. If we did not continually aim to grow and develop we would not have many of the luxuries we have today in western civilization. While this has lead to massive amounts of environmental degradation in the past and to this day, we are now seeing a switch in mentality due to a switch in economics. People are beginning to understand the benefits of efficiency as well as conservation because it saves them money. The latest recession, while highly detrimental to our economy and our citizens, has further illustrated the value of conservation as people are becoming more conscious of their actions such as the food they purchase or the miles they drive.2 Increasing the efficiency of our everyday appliances and electronics does a great deal to save energy. Everyday more and more products are being labeled Energy Star, meaning they generally use 20-30% less energy than required by federal standards.3 These standards for energy efficiency did not come into existence in the United States until the early 1990s but have since been adopted by other countries such as Canada, Australia, and Japan. While Energy Star products typically cost more than their competition, they tend to be cheaper in the long run due to lower rates of energy consumption. The recent rise in energy prices only makes Energy Star products more economically viable in the marketplace. Besides increasing the efficiency of everyday devices, companies and families are beginning to realize both the economic and environmental benefits of increasing efficiency in their buildings. In 2009, residential buildings accounted for 22% of our nation’s total energy consumption while commercial buildings accounted for 19%.4 Buildings not only require an immense amount of energy and material to build, but after they are built require a constant input of energy in the form of heat and electricity. Using these inputs more efficiently has the potential to save billions of BTUs and thousands of megawatt hours which in turn would significantly curb the amount of greenhouse gases put into our atmosphere. Our nation has not had much experience with creating efficient housing. In the 1950’s after WWII there was a brief call for “solar homes” in the United States to help accommodate the soldiers returning home. These houses utilized south facing windows and tight framework in order to keep power consumption low, an idea sparked by the conserving attitude our nation adopted on the home front during the war. Unfortunately during this time electricity prices were ridiculously cheap and the “solar home” movement quickly died. In their place came large, inefficient houses that consumed much more heat and power. As electricity and heating prices are now rising, we see a call for such energy-efficient houses that were once regarded as unnecessary decades ago. “Solar homes” are a prime example of how the economy drives our development.