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It’s Not That Hard

Missing the Point

After half a century, you might think this stuff would be second nature. You'd be wrong.

Earth Day is April 22 of every year. April 22, 2020 will mark 50 years of Earth Day.

Earth Day’s 50th anniversary is one week after this post’s publication date. You’d think that after half a century, we’d have figured this stuff out. But far too often, I find myself wondering how it is that so many people still miss the point.

One day last week I was working on the barn project. A windy day, it was typical for New England in the spring. Although it was sunny enough that I came home sunburned, it was cold enough that I was still wearing my insulated Carhartt coat. But instead of the cold, clean smell of the Arctic on a Canadian high-pressure system, every so often I’d catch a whiff of fuel-oil or diesel exhaust, as if the oil burner in the main house had kicked on or there was a truck nearby with a serious injector problem. At one point, the smell was so strong despite the gusty north wind that I put down the tools and walked around to find the source. Approaching the street side of the barn, it go so bad that my eyes were burning.

Something wasn’t right.

Across the street is a run-down landscaper/handyman business, a business that probably predates Earth Day. In the gravel driveway sat an old 275-gallon oil tank, its top ripped open and smoke pouring out. Several men were standing around watching. They were burning out the residue in the tank, presumably to make it more valuable for scrap. What the hell? The fire marshal showed up not long after, and although I don’t know the resolution, she at least appeared to be having an animated conversation with the owner.

In Connecticut, we take our wetlands and watercourses seriously. We realize the important role they play in recharging the aquifers…

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  1. Eric Barker | | #1

    Well said.

  2. Heather Thompson | | #2

    Great to hear CT takes their watersheds so seriously. More states and municipalities need to get on-board with similar policies.

    Andy, as far as renovating and building second homes go, keep pushing for the better options. As you know, it's a bit of a dance because you don't want to turn off the homeowners or architects and put the job in the hands of Joe Status Quo, Inc. Our projects are about a 50/50 mix of primary vs second homes. We also struggle weighing the pros and cons of second home projects, or even what we call "vanity projects". But at the end of the day, we feel our sensitivity to energy use and embodied carbon are non-negotiable so if we can land the job, the planet will be better off, the structure will be durable and efficient, and maybe we can make a few converts along the way.

    1. Andy Engel | | #3

      Largely agreed, although I'll take the job anyway. In all likelihood, even without any special efforts at green construction, we'll do a better job at that end than the competition who would take on the project if we didn't.

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