Green Me Up, JJ: To LEED or not to LEED

logo150.jpg"Advice for Greenies in a Complicated World"

Dear JJ:

As the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I want the new green headquarters we're building in lower Manhattan to be as green as it can possibly be. I've heard the LEED guidelines can be problematic, but is there something even better?

New York City

Dear Lloyd:

Well, let's make your building as green as possible!!

The LEED system, as not all my readers may know, is the U.S. Green Building Council's certification program: Just follow the LEED point system, and you can construct your new building to be Certified, Silver, or Gold. Or you can make your headquarters an OMG Platinum building--and follow in the footsteps of such leading eco-conscious companies as BP, Exxon, BASF (the world's largest chemical company), McDonald's, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America.

As you say, LEED has its critics--as it turns out that some of the buildings are actually consuming a lot more energy than their non-LEED counterparts.

Still, my only serious criticism of LEED is that no one can ever remember what LEED stands for.*

How to create a truly green HQ? You can look it all up on the USGBC website, but you'll need to earn points in the five major LEED categories:

Sustainable Sites (21 points) -- for actions by the people working inside your building to make sites in the U.S. and around the world more sustainable.

Water Efficiency (11 points) -- for the efficient work you do inside your building to minimize the water pollution from offshore oil spills, fracking, and the manufacture or dumping of toxic chemicals, in the U.S. and in a lot of less affluent countries around the world.

Energy & Atmosphere (37 points!) -- for the expenditure of energy to create an unpolluted atmosphere inside the building that encourages, for example, a living wage for the maintenance staff and low parachute packages for the executives, and that minimizes the outsourcing of industry and the shipment of toxic waste to less affluent communities in the U.S., as well as to a lot of less affluent countries around the world that have weaker labor and environmental regulations.

Materials & Resources (14 points) -- for the sale, trade, design, and purchase by the people who work inside your building of materials, resources and especially financial products that won't dramatically increase carbon emissions, and that won't also generally entirely devastate forests, rivers, deltas, deserts, agricultural areas, low-income communities, or towns and cities very broadly, in the U.S. and in a large number of other countries around the entire world.

Indoor Environmental Quality (17 points) -- for the quality inside your building of the decision-making environment, that can say NO to e.g. wholesale tax avoidance, incessant litigation against EPA regulations, massive spending to defeat climate-change accords, and huge spending on measures such as the installation of the world's most effective air filtration system in the headquarters of a bank that has $23 billion out in loans to the oil and gas industries.

So get started, Lloyd, and let us all know when the ribbon-cutting ceremony is!

* And did you remember? LEED stands for Leadership in Economic and Environmental Do-Right-ism.

The USGBC also offers a separate certification program--Green Roof for Economic and Environmental Devastation--that's proven more popular for corporate headquarters. The 4 levels are Certifiable, Silver Spoon, Gold Standard, and Executive Platinum, and you can earn the points by doing things such as recycling files and memos about how to maximize your short-term company profits as well as our shared long-term worldwide environmental costs--all in a sunny solar-heated structure with state-of-the-art air circulation and water-efficient landscaping and preferred hybrid-vehicle parking that houses a superb legal team and an excellent PR department and a crack sustainability officer who personally waters the rooftop herb garden and uses the bike parking religiously and keeps the heat at 62 degrees in her spacious office on one of the three floors for that excellent PR department.

Green Me Up, JJ is an occasional advice column. You can e-mail JJ with your burning questions about how to act and think environmentally smart in our complicated 21st-century world.

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