April 22, 2020
With a profound sense of how vulnerable we are as a species, it seems especially meaningful to be marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day today. We are, in many ways, a small part of something very large; and even in the midst of the tragic COVID-19 pandemic it is calming to be reminded that our planet goes on, and spring brings with it signs of nature returning to life after winter.
Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1970, twenty million Americans —a tenth of the country, including over one million New Yorkers— engaged in rallies, from coast to coast, calling for a healthier and more sustainable planet. Originally conceived as a teach-in on the environment, this ‘educational activism’ led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, profoundly improving the health of our planet and our communities. More recently, in 2016, April 22nd marked the signing of the landmark Paris Agreement, where the world’s political leaders committed to meaningful climate action; and last year, on Earth Day, the City of New York enacted among the most ambitious legislation to curb building carbon emissions of any city in the world: requiring a 40% reduction by 2030.
It was only ten years ago that Building Energy Exchange (BE-Ex) was founded. Recognizing that only by providing neutral, expert information, and by connecting the key stakeholders and decision-makers, could we create healthier, more comfortable, and more efficient buildings that would, in effect, flatten our carbon curve. I am proud to report that since 2010, BE-Ex has hosted over 1,000 programs with more than 27,000 attendees, alongside hundreds of case studies, reports, playbooks, and exhibits. Together we can accomplish truly amazing things: cleaner water, cleaner air, habitat protection, better buildings, better cities, and so much more.
Recently, we’ve seen signs of dramatic leadership: Vornado Reality Trust, in their 2019 ESG report, committed their vast real estate holdings to be carbon neutral by 2030; and Blackrock’s CEO, Larry Fink, announced that all investments in their influential $7.4 trillion portfolio would be judged by their sustainability in the face of rapid climate change.
Amidst the devastation and challenges that many are facing, our team has been working to find meaningful ways to keep our community connected, engaged, and informed. Our online platform, be-exchange.org, has grown into a vast depository of case studies, program media, event videos, tech primers, reports, and more, covering a wide range of subjects, systems, and project types. This spring, we will unveil a robust, interactive e-learning platform offering accredited online courses to everyone everywhere. And today, we are launching Radio BE-Ex, our live interview and podcast series of insights from thought-leaders. As the COVID-19 pandemic pushes us apart, BE-Ex will continue to bring our community closer together.
Reflecting the core principles of the Exchange—collaboration and knowledge sharing—our accomplishments over this decade have built on strategic partnerships at the local, state, and global level. Leveraging the expertise of our partners, we’ve launched a string of program series highlighting critical developments- policies, technologies, and beyond—facing the building industry. Women in Sustainability and Energy (WISE), founded in 2015, has brought together thousands to learn from a diverse set of experienced women leaders and advance equity in the workplace. 2018’s Celebrate NYC Series, sponsored by National Grid, provided best-in-class case studies of local energy efficient building retrofits. Our ongoing Climate Mobilization Act Series, with the Natural Resources Defense Council and NYC Mayor’s Office, demystifies NYC’s ambitious new green buildings policies and arms stakeholders with critical tools and resources to reach compliance.
The success of Earth Day’s promise, and of New York’s groundbreaking legislation, will ultimately hinge on what we continue to do everyday at the Building Energy Exchange – even virtually — bringing citizens together, in good faith, to collaborate on creating a better future. It is in this spirit of collaboration that we will mark the 10th anniversary of the Building Energy Exchange, later this year, and gratefully acknowledge the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, today.
Celebrating this collective action for the common good, we invite you to get involved. In honor of Earth Day: come share your knowledge and your enthusiasm: submit a program to our Open Call; participate in a (virtual) class; download a resource; or (virtually) visit our exhibits.
Join us to help create a better future. Happy Earth Day!
Be well and stay safe,
Richard C. Yancey, FAIA, LEED AP