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Health

Climate change threatens not only our environment, but also our health. Poor indoor and outdoor air quality is a direct result of the fossil fuels we burn. But with the right changes and actions today, we can have cleaner air for our families to breathe and more vibrant outdoor spaces in which to play.

92
%
of global population live with unhealthy air
780
M
women and children breathe kerosene fumes daily
1.1
M
people are killed in traffic incidents each year globally
1
M
premature deaths in China were caused by air pollution in 2015
Why

Burning of fossil fuels, unhealthy buildings, and dependence on personal vehicles all threaten our health. A clean energy future can save lives and cut health costs.

 

Our health is suffering due to our fossil-fuel-based economy. In many industrialized countries, we are breathing in dirty air largely due to burning coal for our electricity and oil for our transportation, leading to 6.5 million deaths each year globally. Our indoor air quality is also causing health problems due to our aging, out-of-date building stock. And in developing economies, millions of people without access to electricity suffer poor health from breathing kerosene fumes on a daily basis.

Cleaning the Air with Renewable Resources

Globally, 92 percent of people breathe air tainted by unsafe levels of pollution, due largely to how we power our economies—by burning coal in massive, centralized power plants. RMI is working to power economies throughout the world with clean, renewable, and distributed energy sources like efficiency, solar, and battery storage.

Creating Healthier Buildings

The U.S. building stock is aging, leading to poor indoor air quality, out-of-date HVAC systems, bad ventilation, and toxic building materials. High-performance buildings—new build and retrofits—have improved indoor air quality, providing a better environment for the people in them thanks to better ventilation, smaller and higher-performing mechanical systems, and biophilic design elements. With retailer REI and other partners, we helped design a net-zero energy distribution center in Arizona, with a primary goal to provide healthy and productive workspaces for employees. This was also a central motivation behind the design of our beyond net-zero Innovation Center, which considers occupant comfort, productivity, and health in every aspect of the building's design.

Replacing Kerosene with Clean Electricity

The 780 million women and children who breathe kerosene fumes inhale smoke equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. RMI’s SEED program is helping to replace kerosene lanterns with clean, renewable electricity sources.

Making Transportation Cleaner and Safer

Over 30,000 people are killed in traffic-related accidents each year in the U.S. and over 1 million are killed globally. And as cities around the world experience more congestion, people experience poorer air quality. Clearly, our health and quality of life are directly and negatively impacted by the mobility systems we depend on. But current societal trends—such as the sharing economy and the development of automated, electric, and digital technologies—mean that a better system is possible today. RMI is working with U.S. cities to implement more convenient, accessible, safe, and clean mobility systems.

Clearing the Air in China

In China, air pollution levels regularly exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended healthy levels. The smog, just one of the many physical manifestations of an energy system built on fossil fuels, has devastating health effects. That’s why we are working with our Chinese partners to help bring about a China that not only runs on clean renewable energy, but is also a global leader in the movement toward clean fuels. Our goal is a China that blazes a path for all developing countries, proving that clean energy can be a powerful instrument of economic growth.

Who’s Joining Us to Make a Difference

We work with bold partners that understand that human and environmental health are inextricably linked. Whether it's owners, designers, and contractors responsible for delivering healthier homes and office buildings, or investors who want to channel their money into a technology or business model that delivers a triple-bottom-line benefit to people, the environment, and their pocketbooks, there is growing agreement among leaders across diverse industries that our climate change problem is a human problem, and they are committed to solving it. For example, we're working with the Building Performance Institute to increase homeowner demand for home performance upgrades that save energy, but also lead to safer, healthier, and more comfortable homes.

When I read Reinventing Fire, a lightbulb went on in my head about how critically important it would be for the Building Performance Institute and RMI to collaborate on upgrading the performance of the nation’s 134 million homes in terms of comfort, health, safety, durability, and energy efficiency. This collaboration is truly ‘reinventing’ an industry sector.

‐Larry Zarker, Chief Executive Officer, Building Performance Institute

Stories from the Field

Have Spreadsheet, Will Travel

RMI's Kaitlyn Bunker reflects on the health and economic benefits of shifting her daily commute from her personal vehicle to multi-modal transportation.

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Native Energy: From Fossil Fuels Below to Renewables Above

Some Native American tribes must tap coal reserves to lift themselves out of poverty, but are often left with polluted water, dirty air, and health problems, which is why some are turning away from fossil fuel development and toward a clean energy future based on abundant renewables.

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Why and How a Major Health Care Provider Chose Renewables

RMI's Iain Kelly describes why healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente saw an opportunity to promote human health by slashing its carbon footprint, and how the BRC helped it achieve these goals.

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Are Energy Efficient Workplaces Healthier? Just Google it

RMI's Doug Miller explains how an increasing number of organizations are recognizing the value beyond energy cost savings provided by energy-efficient buildings, such as worker health and productivity.

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Get Involved

Your support can provide cleaner and healthier indoor and outdoor environments for our own and future generations.