Choosing the right tree for an environmentally friendly Christmas

This year, many Americans are looking to add a bit more green to the holiday season by purchasing environmentally friendly products for their like-minded family and friends. However, these individuals should be careful to take the environment into account when decorating their homes, as many of the season's traditions weren't created with the best interests of nature in mind.

One of the most challenging decisions for individuals concerned about the environment can be decided whether to forgo the family tradition of selecting a Christmas tree. This decision can pose challenges as plastic trees provide for easy clean up, but also put a strain on the Earth's natural resources, whereas living trees often end up in the trash after the year's festivities.

Those looking for a viable alternative in California, however, can choose to rent a tree from The Living Christmas Company. The business, which only currently caters to consumers in Southern California, gives area residents the chance to rent a living, potted tree for the season.

"It's exciting because not only are we meeting our mission; we're also bringing the opportunity for more folks to begin a family tradition more in-line with their values," Scott Martin, founder and CEO of The Living Christmas Tree, told the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

Ranging from $95 to $140 for rental, delivery and pick up, the trees also come with eco-friendly lights and ornaments, and can be purchased in a variety of sizes. Those who aren't in the California area can purchase artisan Christmas trees that are made from recycled materials or that incorporate candles and other sustainable natural resources.

Green housing market set to expand, report indicates

On November 23, Pike Research released a report detailing the state of the market for energy efficient buildings, as well as related services and equipment. According to the market research and consulting firm's data, the total global market for green housing and energy efficient buildings is expected to exceed $100 billion annually by 2017.

If this increase were to happen as expected, it would mark a more than 50 percent increase from the industry's current market value, which is just under $68 billion, according to the company. Overall, energy service companies represented the largest growth segment in the market. Revenues in this sector are expected to exceed $66 billion by 2017.

Driving this growth will also be the sale of related energy efficient products, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and lighting upgrades, especially in the commercial sector. Still, despite the overall growth, individuals who are looking to make an impact by getting into business in the green building field may want to take a closer look at the data.

"The structure of energy-efficient building markets varies considerably from one country or region to another," research analyst Eric Bloom noted in a statement.

Due to this fact, Bloom suggests that service providers need to remain up-to-date on the changing dynamics in their chosen markets in order to truly benefit from the growth. As a result, those considering green jobs may want to take a closer look at certifications that can allow them to attain lucrative careers or investment opportunities in this burgeoning economic sector.

Even those who don't want to enter an exciting new career can draw conclusions from the study. For example, homeowners who want their real estate to be more appealing may want to make upgrades that can help them increase their energy use in the short-term, and the resale value of their investment long-term.

Renewable energy capacity to double by 2020, report indicates

While the debate over the world's long-term energy policy is in question a week before a new round of United Nations talks are to begin in South Africa, new reports show the annual value of the world's renewable energy capacity is expected to experience a significant period of growth of the next decade.

According to a recent publication by Bloomberg New Energy Finance – called the Global Renewable Energy Market Outlook – the world's renewable energy capacity will increase to $395 billion in 2020, and to as much as $460 billion in 2030. These figures – if achieved – would double current estimates of the world's renewable energy production. In 2010, the world generated $195 billion worth of these alternative fuels.

"These results indicate that last year's record renewable energy investment was no one-off despite the recent economic gloom," said Guy Turner, a director of commodity market research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in a press release.

China and Europe will remain two of the biggest markets for investments in renewable energy for the first half of the next decade, the report indicates, however, developing nations may soon catch up. The researchers indicate that Africa, the Middle East and Latin America will see annual renewable energy investment growth rates of 10 to 18 percent through 2020.

Despite the fact that solar power, offshore wind and bioenergy will see increased consumption during the next decade, the United States is still struggling to implement policies that would reduce its emissions. This development follows promises made by President Barack Obama at a similar conference two years ago, where he stated that the country would take a leadership role on the issue.

However, individuals who want to join the fight for pushing this type of legislation may help change the course of the country by electing candidates with strong environmental records.