Green is a very hot color right now…. It’s hard to pick up a newspaper, or scroll through the internet without getting a little green love.  A lot of people are interested in making changes to their lifestyles, but don’t know exactly what to do.  That’s what I’m hear to do!

So what encompasses green, or sustainable, homes?

I like to look at sustainability as a pie with many different pieces that collectively add up to its means.  Here are the primary pieces of this pie:

-Choosing a location that has access to as many resources as possible without hoppin’ in your car.

-Material selections that are reused, recycled, rapidly renewable or from nearby sources

-Efficient use of water (both indoors and for irrigation).

-Minimal energy consumption

-Indoor air quality that eliminates the bad stuff (toxins).

The size of a home is an additional factor… check this out… the average American in 1950 had a little less than 300 sq ft per person.  In 2007, this average has jumped over 3 times that to 960 sq ft a person!  Sounds like a lot of wasted space!

The expanding size of homes contributes directly to their innefficiencies.  It makes sense… the more square footage, the more materials used (and sent to landfills) and heating/cooling costs increase.  According to the Worldwatch Institute, “people can live in a typical house for 10 years before the energy they use in it exceeds what went into its components and its construction.”

Alchemy Architects prefab Wee House, 392 sq ft…. maybe a little on the small side.

So… what can John and Jane Homeowner do to introduce green ideals into their own home?  Let’s start with the basics…

1. Swap out your lightbulbs with flourescents

2. Use only Low-VOC paints from here on out.

3. Get low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators.

4. Avoid buying new furniture…(try reupholstering an old chair with a recycled textile).

5. Any wood product being used? Make sure it’s FSC (Forest stewardship council) Certified.

6. Bamboo and cork make great floors.

7. Set thermostat to 55 at night… minimize AC usage.

8. Wash clothes with cold water and hang dry on clothesline (if you can).

9. Refuse to use harsh cleaning products that contain hazardous chemicals.

10. Oh… and buy all appliances with the Energy Star badge.

Once you tackle these easy tasks, we’ll move on to the bigger and better things, like prefab homes, geothermal and solar heating systems, etc.


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.