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Reading Exercise: Eco-Communities

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Did you know that town planners, architects and builders are "going green" on a global scale? Read about an example of this in the reading practice exercise below. You can find the meaning of the words in bold in the vocabulary list under the text, and you can check your understanding by doing the Eco-Communities Comprehension Quiz.

Dockside Green

eco-communitiesThe green movement is catching on in many pockets of the world. This is especially true in the construction industry. Today's buzz words, which include global warming and zero emissions, are causing everyday people (not just celebrities) to look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Purchasing an environmentally-friendly home is a good investment for those who are concerned about their own health and the well-being of our planet. Based on this trend, entire districts, known as eco-communities, are being designed with green initiatives in mind. One of these communities is Dockside Green in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Its goal is to become the world's first zero-emission neighbourhood.

Dockside Green is a mostly self-sufficient community along the harbour front of Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. The community is home to around 2,500 people and includes residential, office, and retail space. It includes a variety of environmental features, some of which are unprecedented.

The planners and builders of Dockside Green have the environment in mind with every choice they make. They ensure proper ventilation and guarantee residents clean air indoors. Interior and exterior building materials, such as paints and wood, are natural and non-toxic. One of these is bamboo which is used because it's very durable and can be grown without the use of dangerous pesticides.

Energy efficiency is one of the top priorities in eco-communities like Dockside Green. Not only do energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures reduce the environmental impact of heating, cooking and lighting, they also save residents money. Dockside Green claims that home owners use 55% less energy than the average Canadian. Though many residents are sharing space by investing in condo-style living, they have their own individual utility metres for electricity and gas. Studies show that people use around 20% less energy when they are billed for exactly what they use.

Eco-communities also take the future into account by recycling waste and reducing carbon emissions. At Dockside Green, waste water is treated and reused on-site for flushing toilets, and a biomass gas plant converts waste wood into a renewable form of gas for hot water systems, stoves and gas heaters. The community also reduces carbon emissions by using local suppliers for all their transport and maintenance needs, and residents are encouraged to use a mini transit system and join the community's car share program.

The first two stages of development at Dockside Green were completed in 2011, and additional plans to increase sustainability are in the works. Similar green communities are now found all over the world, especially smaller ones known as ecovillages or "intentional communities". Most have 50 to 150 residents, all of whom are trying to reduce their carbon footprints and create a model for sustainable living in the future.

Vocabulary

Word Meaning
bamboo noun a woody plant that grows quickly without pesticides and has many uses
biomass noun organic material or waste that can be used to make fuel
buzz word noun a word that's popular at a certain time, especially in the media
carbon-dioxide or carbon (colloq.) noun a greenhouse gas that's released when fossil fuels are burned
carbon footprint noun a measurement of the total amount of carbon a person adds to the atmosphere by travelling by air, driving a car, using fossil fuel-generated power, etc.
car share program noun a program that allows members to share one or more cars instead of buying their own car
durable adj. strong, long-lasting
eco- prefix related to the protection of the natural environment and ecosystems
eco-community or ecovillage noun a community with environmentally-friendly buildings, technology, and energy sources like solar, wind, biomass, etc.
energy-efficient adj. able to use less energy (esp. of vehicles, appliances, buildings, etc.)
global warming noun increasing temperatures and the rising sea levels, melting ice caps, coral reef bleaching, unstable weather, etc. this is causing
green adj. 1. concerned with protecting the natural environment and the planet
2. having the colour of grass
green initiative noun an effort to protect the natural environment
in the works idiom being developed now
non-toxic adj. not harmful to people or the environment, esp. of chemicals, waste products, etc.
pesticide noun a chemical used to prevent insects from destroying crops
self-sufficient adj. able to function, or produce all that's needed, without outside help
unprecedented noun never done or achieved before
utility metre noun a device that records how much water, electricity or gas is being used in a house, apartment or building
ventilation noun the replacement of unclean air or smoke with clean air
zero-emission adj. releasing no waste products, esp. carbon-dioxide (or "carbon")