Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sustainable Explained

At its simplest, sustainability means taking as little as possible from resources that cannot be renewed. A movement without real leaders, it seems to have the greatest resonance on college campuses, always a home for new thinking. Student groups and sessions dedicated to sustainability are flourishing. While some produce little but conversational--and political--gas, others are preaching practical solutions. At Drury University in Missouri, a campus conference on using natural resources ended with a posting of “10 simple ways to support sustainable living in the Ozarks.” Among the suggestions: Shop at local food producers. From “The Greening of America’s Campuses,” New York Times, Jan. 9, 2006

I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.
Theodore Roosevelt

I’m still getting my feet wet trying to understand just what all the “sustainability” or green movement involves and I’ll bet I’m not alone. However, with all the attention Drury University’s first Habitat for Humanity sustainable house project is getting, I’m educating myself. That’s why I included the excerpt from the Times, which seemed a simple enough explanation of “sustainability” even for me.

Drury’s 1,280 sq. ft., four bedroom, two-story Habitat house will have carpet made from 100% recyclable material, a ground-source heat pump (I had to look that one up and as I understand it, that’s geothermal energy), energy-saving windows and radiant heat in the floors.

I don’t care if you think global warming is real, natural or humankind induced or not. Going “green” and using building practices with sustainable materials makes sense in the long run. Of course, cost is a factor and must be balanced, but we can begin to make changes that will prove we can be wise stewards of God’s Green Earth. And even this morning, I found in my inbox a link to a new survey by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, “The True Costs of Green Building,” which “found that the costs of ‘green’ building are frequently overestimated – often by as much as 300%. The report notes that such misjudgment of the costs of ‘green’ construction creates barriers to more energy efficiency in the building sector.”

What can we do? Something as simple as an old-fashioned clothesline is an energy-saving device. How about recycling rainwater? Ceiling fans? And buy local. I have lost my love affair with China and her cheap products. Maybe it’s time to rethink what we put into our shopping carts and the energy it took to bring the items all the way from the Far East. But the most important thing to me is to encourage our young people to continue along this path of fresh and innovative thinking.


Marion said...

We have the first building for Habitat here, just now in the beginning stages.

For the better part of my life, I have bought and shopped for local products. Or grown my own. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's book? I lent it to my daughter; I can't remember the name...Animal, Vegetable or something like that, lol. It's a good book.

My partner is in the building trade; he tells me of some of the innovative approaches being used for buildings.What is interesting to me is the green building costs being overestimated...that creates a block against green right there.

Sheila said...

I haven't read the book but may look it up. I need to find something to read since my husband is reading the Harry Potter series.

You probably know a lot more about just what innovations are happening then. We tend to get our blinders on and the tried and true might need to be challenged.

I'm with you on the local. We have a farmers market here several days of the week, but it's nothing to compare with Montgomery, Alabama's two or more markets. I think I miss the Farmers Market and the Curb Market more than anything else about Montgomery.

Miss Trashahassee said...


Excellent post.

I agree that going "green" makes sense overall, no matter what a person believes about whether global warming is real or a hoax.

It is possible to conserve energy and protect our environment without getting fanatical, and your suggestions are simple and make good sense.

"Global warming" or not, we're still charged with maintaining our planet for future generations. Everyone ought to be trying to do something.

Miss T

Tim said...

In this day and age, when all the enviromental signs are smack-in-the-face-apparent, I honestly don't understand why more don't go "green".

But then I turn my attention towards Hollywood celebs and the like, and I receive my answer.

We have no role models. Americans like to look to our celebrities, politicians, etc. for examples, and when we do, we see sprawling, castle-sized compounds, gas-guzzling SUV's or worse, and whatever money will buy them.

I try to not to ocmpare, but Norwegians overall don't use air-conditioning (granted, the U.S. can often soar into the 100s, so I understand), we dry our clothes on racks and fancier-non-redneck-appearing clothes-carousels outside. It's also practically LAW to build your house under environmental guidlines, despite the common sense reasons being the climate.

So I hope the next generations will be the ones to break this cycle of having the need to use our celebrities and rich elite as role models and begin using their own brains to protect what they're (we're) inheriting - after all, I'm part of that generation.

Dirty Butter said...

Thanks for the great post, Shelia. I looked into putting in a geothermal heat pump before we bought our regular heat pump. It was going to cost something like $10,000!! It meant drilling 3 wells in the back yard, and that made it prohibitive. Yes, cost DOES keep people from going green. But, thanks to the drought, I've been using gray water in the yard and doing research on rain barrels. I want to have 1 rain barrel in place before next summer, for sure, and another barrel on our deck for gray water, with the hose to go to the yard.

When we built this house, we would go behind the builders and stuff oakum in every crevice we could find in the framing. It has paid off all these years in lower heating and cooling bills.

And we recycle like crazy. We put out one white garbage bag a week.

So, we didn't get to do the geothermal thing, but we have found other small ways to go green.

Sheila said...

Miss T,
I hope more people will jump on the "green" bandwagon. You know, it seems to take a bunch of publicity and for something to become "trendy" before many people will listen. I may even go retro and string up a clothesline like my neighbor. She swears its the reason her next door neighbor put up a privacy fence but what the hey.

Sheila said...

I'm so glad you wrote since you grew up in America but now live in Norway. Yeah, you'd think people would see the wisdom of going green but people are lazy and cheap. Man, I really don't mean that--just some people. Sorry to be negative. The McMansion trend might be easier to break but the wealthy folks have always been able to afford whatever kinds of houses they want. Maybe we need a wealthy role model who chooses to live smaller and greener.

Thanks for sharing a little about how the Norwegians do it. You are right about the future and I think we are starting to head in the right direction.

Sheila said...

That's interesting about the cost of geothermal. I had no idea but my husband had visited a home with it and was impressed with the whole concept. The rainwater idea seems so logical too. Here in Springfield I recall seeing something about a home company selling the rain barrels and it was definitely easy and inexpensive to get started collecting it.

Jay Croft said...

We were looking into a tankless water heater, but the cost of retrofitting our old house would be too much.

Our architect says that water heaters last 10-15 years, so "next time around" the technology may be improved and the heaters will be cheaper.

BTW, our water heater runs fine, and it was built in 1976!

Sheila said...

Yea, Jay, those tankless water heaters do sound interesting. It sounds like you are doing some major remodeling. Did I recall the kitchen was getting attention? I guess I would keep the old water heater until it quit too. Kudos to the manufacturer.

Jay Croft said...

Yes, we have a very odd kitchen, with a chimney right in the middle of it! We plan to demolish it and do major remodeling.

One idea is to put a new water heater in the attic, out of the way.