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Confessions of an Overzealous Green Building Advocate

Do you ever find yourself so deeply entrenched in your beliefs that you miss a bigger picture?  It’s safe to say we all do.  Recently, I had a chance to speak with a lovely lady who had purchased a fantastically green home.  The house had all the latest in green building like engineered lumber, sustainable materials, non-toxic finishes and many other bells and whistles.  You can imagine that my eyes sparkled like a five year old’s at a sight of an ice-cream truck.  Meeting her filled me with much excitement.

My first questions obviously were:  “So how do you like it?  Does it feel good to have a low carbon footprint?  Don’t you just love your solar water heater?”  I was expecting to hear something profound like: ”Wow, we love the fact how much less wood was used to construct this house, how much stronger it is because of engineered lumber, how low the heating bills were,” you know…, the standard stuff that we greenies get jazzed up about.  But you know what her answer was? “It’s nice; we love the quality of the floors and are very comfortable here.”

My jaw dropped.  “What?” uninvited but silent thoughts started creeping in, “She’s got to be kidding… this home should be like a Lincoln monument for green building and all she cares about is bamboo floors… For the sake of the planet, what’s wrong with her!?”

Needless to say, this was puzzling as hell but on the way back home it dawned on me.  It’s something that is common sense but can be missed by any environmentally overzealous mind.  For most people, a green home means nothing else but quality and comfort.  Majority of folks will buy a green home for the same reason that most people buy organic – it tastes better and its better for health.  Would you agree that most organic shoppers could careless that the coffee in their cart was grown sustainably and without leveling trees in the Amazon?

OK, on the first glance, completely dissing the idea of conservationism seems a bit depressing but when you think about it, it is also the best news ever.  This means that even folks who could careless about environment can still do the right thing and bring about positive results.  A wise buyer will seek out quality and comfort and it just very fortunately happens so that green homes can provide this and then some.

Besides already mentioned factors of considerably lower energy bills and improved indoor air quality, any compassionate heart will find that not borrowing against nature’s depleting resources is exceedingly emotionally rewarding. When you think about it, who really wants a home out wood from an old growth forest, which just weeks ago was a refuge for hundreds of other living beings?

Anyways, I invite you to avoid making the mistake I made by superimposing our own beliefs onto another person and many times ask for something that even we are not ready to pursue.  It’s embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I will also choose comfort and price over sustainability.  What to say, old habits can be like a golden coin.  So hard to bend and so hard to throw away.

It is important to keep a cool head about all this and not to get over excited or too pushy with others.  At the end of the day, we can do so much more if we understand what drives human behavior and see a bigger picture.  If catering to our basic needs of quality and comfort trumps our sentiment of sustainability then let it be.  What matters is that the end result is a positive one.  Ultimately though, a true sustainability mindset is a work in progress.  We’ll get there.

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