It's Not Easy Being Green

By
Home Inspector with Helm Home Inspections

I've been thinking about this for a while.  There is a lot of hoopla regarding green building and green lifestyle these days.  There are certainly many levels of greenness and I applaud you for whatever level you have reached.  Unfortunately, being truly green is a lot more complex than it might seem on the surface. 

Let's start with transportation.  When we think of green, we need to take into consideration the carbon footprint for sure, but we also need to take into consideration the use of resources (after all, we do live in a finite world) and how long will it take that new green product to become a net gain for the environment.   You buy a new Prius.  This is very green because it gets very high mileage.  Not green immediately.  How much steel, oil (including all the plastics) and polution was used/caused in its manufacture?  How much oil was used in shipping it to the USA and then to your town?  Compare this with a ten year old high mileage vehicle  (since emission standards have not improved in this time I will not talk about that).  The manufacturing costs (polution, resource use) have nearly been amortized.  In the beginning, at least, the ten year old vehicle will be greener than the new Prius.  How long will it take the Prius to catch up? In this blog I'll not talk about public transportation because the nature of most of our work requires private transportation (there is probably very little green about private transportation).

Food use and production; where does your food come from?  Is it shipped halfway around the world?  Is it a result of industrial monoculture farming (relying heavily on oil for fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and harvesting)?  Truly green food is both local and seasonal. We eat what is produced in our local area, when it is produced.  If you want it to be green, you also have to take into consideration the treatment of the land and animals that you eat.  If the land is being despoiled with petroleum based chemicals, if the animals are treated as production units (feed lots, cages, etc.) it is not green.  Even if it is organic, if it's shipped from far off, it's not green.

Local economies; A green economy is one that is sustaining of the locality.  If your buying your goods and services from the big box stores/national or international chains, you are not sustaining your local economy.  This is not green.  Buying local circulates the money local.  Buying from chains sends the money somewhere else. 

What is a truly green house?  The analogy written above about the Prius fits here too.  Can we find truly sustainable wood products?  Not with todays knowledge.  There are certainly some small, local mills and timber operations that strive to do sustainability, but on a national level it is pretty grim.  Building to LEEDS standards is certainly a large step in the right direction, but is only a step. Where do the materials and products for future housing come from?  What is the carbon/resource footprint of future housing?

This post is not meant as a pooh poohing of green building and practices.  It is only meant as a thought provoker.  I am thrilled that our industry is beginning to take these things into consideration, and I know that all of us fit somewhere in the continuum of green; either not green, partially green, predominately green (I doubt that there is anyone in this country that is 100% green; we do, after all, live in an industrial society).

Thanks for reading this screed.  I hope it provokes thought and action. 

REDUCE; REUSE; RECYCLE

David Helm, Helm Home Inspections

Washington Licensed Home Inspector #272

WSDA Licensed Structural Pest Inspector #69844

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David Helm, Inspector, Helm Home  Inspections Bellingham, Washington  Licensed Home  Inspector #272                                                       WSDA  Licensed Structural Pest Inspector  #69844              http://www.helmhomeinspections.com           HelmHomeInspections@yahoo.com                                                                               

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Comments 9 New Comment

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Rainmaker
344,535
Michael Eisenberg
Bellingham Real Estate Broker
eXp Realty

Oh what a complex world we live in if only it were easy if only all the answers made sense to everyone the same way

November 20, 2009 12:13 AM
Rainer
67,262
David Helm
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp
Helm Home Inspections

Chris, yes focusing on local is a very positive step toward total green.

John, I've just made you an honorary tree hugger.  Your attitude is exactly the same as the staunchest environmentalist.

Terry, Thanks for the kind comments.

Dan, Thanks for the comments.  It's easy to buy 100% recycled toilet paper, and it is just as soft as any others.  My old septic system actually appreciates this stuff because it breaks down easier.

Hi Michael, We haven't talked in a while.  I agree completely with your sentiment.

November 20, 2009 10:49 AM
Rainer
122,276
Linda Mae Croom
(928) 768-3040

David,

thanks for the inspirational info...

I really do need to become more 'green' in my thinking and habits...

Speaking of toilets... My entire systm is plugged today and I have to call a plumber to "snake" it... I am switching to the 1005 recycled as well...i hope my septic system appreciates it as much as yours does.

November 21, 2009 02:40 PM
Anonymous #8
Anonymous
Anonymous

David, there are so many little things we can all do.  Recycled TP and paper towels are a no brainer.  CFL's expensive but worth it.  Non-toxic cleaning products, worth the cost.  If everyone in this country did just three small things, we could make a huge impact!

November 21, 2009 08:19 PM
Rainer
67,262
David Helm
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp
Helm Home Inspections

Linda Mae, I'm sure it will.

Terry, Yes there are many easy things to do to make an impact, on the planet, on the local economy and on our own health.

November 22, 2009 06:32 PM
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Rainer
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David Helm

Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp
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Additional Information

My blogs offer a wide range of topics, from home inspection to cooking to woodworking to gardening to local area information and photos. I love talking about Bellingham, Washington and its surrounding area. Home inspection is my work; life is my passion.