That's exactly the goal of net-zero buildings, which are poised to become the next standard for sustainable architecture.
The vast majority of structures in the world, from homes to factories to offices, don't use the energy around them, but instead draw from the power grid. Energy on the grid comes from distant power plants, which often use non-renewable fuel sources like coal or gas—and about 6% of the energy that goes into the grid is lost completely as it's transmitted and distributed. While there's a lot that these net-negative buildings can do to increase their energy efficiency, like installing LED lights or insulation to make heating and cooling more efficient, they're still drawing on the grid in the end.
Net-zero structures improve on the efficiency of standard buildings by using the energy of sunlight that's already heating them up, and wind that's already blowing around them. Harnessing that solar and wind power allows them to power their lights, computers, and HVAC units with their own energy, and put as much back into the grid when it's sunny or windy as they use when it's not. Because that power only has to move down from the roof, or from a central point on a corporate campus—a matter of yards instead of miles—much less of it is lost in transit. That means more power collected, and used more efficiently.
Once the energy budget of a building breaks even, the only way to go is up. Where net-zero buildings even out the power they draw from the grid with power they provide back to it, net-positive ones push even more energy out than they take back, allowing green-minded buildings to compensate for net-negative neighbors. As wind and solar technology become ever cheaper and more efficient, these "energy-plus" buildings become more and more of a possibility.
Where will we go from there? Maybe one day we'll have net-zero cell phones, or cars, or even airplanes. But even if we can't see what's over the horizon, the future is looking bright.
Sustaining our planet, and our business, means protecting natural resources and empowering individuals and communities throughout the world to encourage progress. It means balancing economic, environmental and social factors while addressing global challenges. And above all else, it means uniting under a common goal: improve every life.