Op-ed: Attempting to redefine the meaning of “green” could weaken efforts to mitigate climate change

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There’s nothing green about your back-up generator. Manufacturing it released tons of CO2 into the atmosphere; so did shipping it from the factory to the dealership to your backyard. There it will sit, idle, waiting to be deployed only when the much cleaner—but underfunded—public infrastructure fails. At that point, it will fill the air with additional pollutants. There may be perfectly good reasons to buy an emergency generator but being green—that is, protecting the environment—isn’t one of them. And yet back-up generators are being called green, part of an almost Orwellian redefinition of the term that confuses selfishness with selflessness. The shift was signaled in mid-September by a Washington Post Magazine cover story promoting “a new gold standard for green architecture.” In it, the Miami architect Andrés Duany declared houses with generators, fortifications against rising waters, and other resilient features to be “green.” The old green architecture would have to go, Duany told author David Walter, explaining that “the preoccupation of today’s sustainable design—minimizing carbon dioxide emissions and mitigating climate change—is naive at best and a dereliction of duty at worst.” Instead, Duany proposed things like large multigenerational houses, with outer …

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