Be Like a Tree
In this episode of the Green Ninja Show, a young woman discovers that her friend, “the Building”, wants to function similar to the way a tree does. This is because trees offer many benefits to the Earth’s climate and local ecosystems while most buildings harm these Earth systems if made without considering the environment.
The building is distressed because he does not benefit the Earth and he cannot do the activities a Green Ninja would do to save the planet because he is a building. A building usually requires natural resources to construct. Also, their construction process has a significant carbon footprint due to the high volume of carbon that is released into the atmosphere by the machinery and equipment that relies on fossil fuels to move materials, operate, and bring the workers to and from the construction site. But buildings are not bad, they do provide some benefits. Buildings act as shelter and protection from the weather for humans and some animals. Still, the building in this episode is concerned because he is not helping the planet as much as the tree.
The tree is important because it shows what kinds of things trees, buildings, and other structures can do for the planet. The tree provides shelter from sunlight and precipitation for people and animals alike. Trees do not need fossil fuels or electricity; they use the power of sunlight (solar energy) to produce oxygen and energy through photosynthesis, which is why plants are essential to most ecosystems. Some trees serve as shelter and food for insects and birds while some trees make fruit, which feeds people and all kinds of animals. Trees are self-sufficient, falling leaves add nutrients to the soil and trees can reproduce by dropping seeds or fruit containing seeds.
The building wants to help the climate so he tries out design options that are beneficial to humans, other animals, and the climate. The building first discovers “green roofs”, which is when a building has live plants growing in soil which sits on a waterproof layer covering the outside of the building’s roof. A green roof planted with grass can provide all the benefits of regular grass, such as a habitat or food for insects and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.
After that, the building got a new source of clean power. Solar panels can be installed on a roof too or they can be built anywhere around a building in order to create shade and generate clean energy for the building.
Next, the building got a rain-collecting system to save the rainwater that runs off the roof. Screening and collecting rainwater in reservoirs or rain barrels provides a free source of water for decorative plants and lawns. The water from the rainy season can be sealed and saved until a dryer season or even a drought occurs, so that grass and trees can be watered without drawing from the resources of the local water company. This saves the community’s natural resources and it saves money!
The building brings up LED lights as he seeks to lower electricity use. LED lights are superior to incandescent and fluorescent lights in nearly every way! LEDs create the same amount of light as incandescent and fluorescent bulbs while using less electricity and letting off less energy as heat. An LED lasts an average of five times longer than the competing bulbs. Although LED lights cost more initially, by cutting down on electricity bills and replacement costs, they are actually cheaper in the long run.
The building also brings up the use of reusable construction materials. This is something designers, architects, and construction crews decide on when creating the building. Some teams will choose to use reusable and recyclable materials so when the building is demolished, the materials used can still be retrieved and used for the construction of another building.
Some businesses will do projects, like construction or manufacturing, but they reduce the carbon footprint with a practice called “carbon offsetting”. Carbon offsets are projects such as planting trees or funding a clean energy program. In other words, they are actions taken in order to lower the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. Construction releases a large volume of carbon into the atmosphere, but carbon offsets can be used to make a construction project carbon neutral, which means the net amount of carbon released by the project (combining the additional carbon from construction and the subtracted carbon from the carbon offsets) is zero.
When the building is constructed and operated with all of these techniques in mind, it can really be like a tree. A building cannot grow or reproduce like a tree can, but a building can be beneficial to the global climate and the local ecosystem. From our work to our schools to our homes, any building can be like a tree! If you want to learn more about these building strategies, click here for an article by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) about the different parts of green construction.
Director: Dave Chai
Producer: Maaike Scherff
Editor: Keith Silva
Intro by: Mark Wanninger & Michael Salmassian
Voice cast: Ken Arnold, Megan Arnold, and David Chai
Animation: Chelsea Holt
Animation clean-up and color: Colton Davis, Nic Dody, Chelsea Holt, Roxas Nick, Shannon Preston, Nikiel Suchit, Maaike Scherff Amanda Thomas, and Sony Tran