Yesterday was a big day for green things. CNN had two items that I found to be of interest, both were about green building and one of them ties in with my question regarding our culture of consumption.
was a little "explainer" about green building ideas and practices. It mentions the National Home Buyers Association's Model Green Home Building Guidelines
, as well as the US Green Building Council's LEED
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.
Some of the comments on this piece are interesting, with most people solidly in favor of green things, while a scattered few decry it as a big scam. "Mike" had an important point regarding "todd's" comment of "...It's not about the price morons, it's about doing the right thing." He says:
"Take it easy todd. How much do new Toyota Prius's start at $22,000? I am just starting out in the world and I for one could not afford that price when I was in the market for a new car in 2006. I care about the environment and I wanted to do my part, but at that price it was not possible for me. I bought a 2006 Honda Civic because it gets great mileage and I could afford it. Why does the price of "being green" have to be so much more than everything else??"
I think that both of them are right. For those who have the luxury of flexibility in terms of pricing, why not focus on doing the right thing? That said, I think that given Mike's limited resources, he made a great decision. He did the best he could with what he had. The problem we face as a nation and a culture is that people tend to buy far more than they actually need. this is a good segue into the next piece.
CNN's Sr. Environment and Technology Correspondent Miles O’Brien wrote a piece on Green McMansions
, 8000 Square foot homes that are alleged to be ecofriendly. This, from the article:
'The home we toured has geothermal heating and cooling, incredibly tight and efficient insulation… sustainably- harvested lumber…lots of LED and natural light and the home sites are built in clusters- to preserve the woods.
“I think we’ve pushed the envelope of green pretty far,” Robbins [president of the Windermere development] told me.'
Here I think the point is not so much "How green is it compared to another house of its size?" but "Is its size antithetical to green ideals?" So far my thinking is this: If you need a place for 10 to 15 people to live comfortably, this might be a great way to do it. However, American's lust for all things big does not seem to extend to families. The Average number of children under 18 for American families (with children) is 1.86 according to the 2000 Census (pdf)
. This means that odds are pretty good you don't have a giant family. Why then, the urge to buy so much more than you need?
Two years ago my wife and I came into a bit of money. We were going to add a floor to our relatively modest San Francisco home. After careful thought, we realized that we really didn't need
another floor, we just wanted
another floor because it would be nice. We recognized however that if we added another floor we would have to heat another floor and light another floor. Since we didn't really need it it seemed wrong to consume all that extra. Instead we saved our money and invested about a third of what we would have spent on that extra floor on solar instead. Now we don't pay for electricity.
Everybody has to make the choices that are right for them. I believe in this. However, I urge people to consider why they are choosing something. If you truly need it, go for it. If you don't, then think about your motivation, and think about what else you could do with your money.
O'brien wraps up his piece with this:
'Our homes are our castles - and they are the cornerstone of the American Dream. Now is not the time to stop dreaming big - but maybe it is time to stop building that way simply for the sake of telling the world we have arrived.'
Labels: green building, news, primary questions