My wife’s a raw vegan (vegetarian plus no dairy, plus no cooked food). She is committed to her diet for, well, dietary reasons. In green building terms, she’s like an extreme NZE (net zero energy) home builder! Not for everybody, but you have to admire the commitment!
Me? I’m “only” a locavore, organic vegetarian. You know, no animals of any kind. Most of my food comes from within a 50-mile radius of my home and is organic—no chemicals or pesticides. In building terms, I’m less like an NZE builder and more like a HERS 30 builder. My reasons for eating as I do are both dietary and environmental. Green building translation: My diet choice is based on my concerns for my own health as well as my concerns for the environmental impact of eating corporately grown meat, fish, and fowl.
Ever watch “Super Size Me” or “Food Inc.” on Netflix? If so, you know the environmental impacts of multi-national cattle, poultry, and fish farms are not insignificant. In fact, they are some of the largest land and water polluters in the country. Now, what does this have to do with green building? I hope the dots are easily connected, but in the event they are not, let me explain.
We all know many consumers are focused on the bling they can get in a house—the counters and tile, the big windows and tall ceilings, the imported stone and stamped concrete. Many builders bemoan the fact that they can’t get their buyers to scratch the surface of good building science and think about a tighter envelope, better insulation, radiant barriers, and good caulking. Some still encounter buyers who, when presented with the benefits of a better-built green home, still think it has to come at the expense of the bling. And this being America, some want it all. These select consumers want high performance under the hood and the look of show car all in one package. And why not? I do, too!
When it comes to my diet, I get them both. Good healthy food, free of nasty chemicals. Most of it is all locally grown, so I do not have a big carbon footprint related to the transportation of my food. When it comes to home building, we strive to do the same and to find clients who value what we build.
The last person I am going to convert to vegetarianism is my gregarious, meat-eating business partner. Actually, I’m not trying to convert anybody to my diet. But every now and then someone stops me and asks about my diet. Not just superficial questions but deeper questions, with follow-up. You know the look-you-in-the-eye and hold-their-breath-waiting-for-your-response type questions? And lo and behold, that someone starts taking steps to change his diet. Some people may cut back on their obsolete diet a bit at a time; some change it all at once. Some just go organic and keep the animals in their diet. Others keep the content the same, but they start buying local. But each finds a path that is a little healthier and usually has a little lighter impact on the planet.
In home building, I’m not trying to convert anybody either (well, maybe just a little). But actually most folks are ignorant (not stupid), and they just do not know there are better alternatives to buying an obsolete home, new or used. If we can engage them with facts, science, sincerity, integrity, and enthusiasm, we can get their attention and convert them maybe just a little after all. NZE? I doubt it. But HERS 60 or better should be an easy sell. Once they learn a greener home is a better-built home and it does NOT have to cost more, you watch how quickly they start moving up the green pyramid!