Sustainable Living in Houston

Houston, Texas is known as the energy capital of the world due to the massive amount of oil and gas produced in the area. Some of the streets and waterways in Houston have been deemed hazardous to humans due to the high levels of pollution. As the oil drilling capitol of the country, Houston is not often known for green initiatives, yet the city leads the nation in sustainable practices such as the use of alternative energy.

Air quality is one of the biggest concerns in the Houston area. The city is classified as severe in terms of ozone. The area’s warm dry climate, combined with the emissions from large amounts of traffic, contributes to a severe air pollution problem in the city. Numerous industrial sites are located along Houston’s main canal, contributing to excessive ozone levels. The American Lung Association ranked Houston as the 17th most polluted city in the United States in 2011.

While Houston has long battled environmental issues, the city leads the nation in using renewable energy sources. It is currently ranked as the number one urban area in the state for purchasing green power. In addition, it is the fourth largest green energy purchaser in the nation. Thirty two percent of the city’s energy comes from wind energy, and Houston is looking to increase that even further. Several large city offices and community buildings also rely on solar power for energy generation.

The city also ranks sixth in the nation in terms of the development of energy efficient buildings. Many of these buildings use 35 percent less energy than typical buildings. Houston has developed Energy Star certified offices, hospitals, schools, retail stores, and other community amenities.

In addition to using clean energy for buildings, Houston is also encouraging the use of clean energy for transportation. The city has developed Power of the Plug-In, a program designed to encourage the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. In addition to converting city-owned vehicles to electric power, Houston has also installed 15 vehicle-charging stations around the city. Seven of these stations are available for the general public to use to charge their own hybrid electric cars. Houston hopes to drastically increase the number of available charging stations in future years. Many hybrid electric cars can operate at 100 miles per gallon, drastically reducing the amount of air pollution in the city.

Houston has also recently released a fleet of diesel-hybrid buses as part of the city’s public transportation system. The city also aims to reduce the number of vehicles on the road by encouraging the use of vanpools, the electric-powered light rail, carpools, and an extensive network of HOV lanes. Houston has also developed a Bikes on Buses program to make it easier for residents to combine bike and bus travel. The buses are now equipped with front mounted bike racks or luggage compartments that fit buses.

Houston also has several residential initiatives in place to encourage sustainable living. In 2006, the city formed a partnership with CenterPoint in order to conduct energy efficient upgrades in low-income homes. Houston has also received $23 million in stimulus money in order to provide up to $3000 per house for weatherization improvements. Builders who construct new homes can receive large financial incentives for building energy efficient homes that utilize renewable energy.

Residents of Houston also have a source for locally grown foods. A recently opened farmer’s market occurs regularly outside of City Hall. Vendors sell raw foods, locally grown produce, and grass-fed Texas beef. Farmer’s markets reduce the environmental impact of both producing and transporting food.

Individuals seeking to further lower their carbon footprint might consider renting an apartment in GreenWay Life. The apartment complex boasts a carbon footprint lower than the average house in Houston. These apartments have been built with double insulated windows, Energy Star refrigerators and dishwashers, and gas ranges, along with several other sustainable building practices. GreenWay Life allows the like-minded residents of the complex to join together in leading a sustainable lifestyle.

Houston has always been known as a city of energy production. Once a major contributor to environmental pollution due to energy production, the city is quickly becoming a world leader in the development and production of clean energy. Renewable energy, along with a growing number of green initiatives, has made it easier for residents to live a more sustainable and green lifestyle.

Businesses interested in opening new office suites in Houston, North Houston and Dallas Texas can contribute to environmental initiatives and recycling schemes in a range of ways to help lower their carbon footprint.