Though the main focus of this blog is genetics and science, I hope you'll allow me a slight change of topic today. I am honored to have as a guest blog my friend Jeff Casalina, who is an energy renewal specialist with the Department of Energy. Jeff is currently working on a book proposal on energy and transportation fuel renewal, and has kindly accepted to tell us about his vision for a greener and planet-friendly way of living. I hope you will enjoy what he has to say. It's something we can all promote and contribute to.
Question: Of the following life necessities—food, water, air, clothing and shelter—which is your most immediate need? Answer: Air, of course! But, what is your second most pressing need? (Hint: think sub-zero temperatures.) You guessed it…shelter! You might be hungry and thirsty, but when you are stuck in a raging snow storm or tornado, shelter is your immediate concern.
We think of our shelter on so many levels—protection from elements, comfort, security, prestige, investment—but what about sustainability?
Sustainability in housing can be defined in several amenities.
Simplicity- How many times have you been on vacation and rented a small cabin or cozy hotel room and thought, “I could really live in something like this. I don’t really need the big house and all that stuff.” Simplicity equals low cost and energy efficiency. The smaller the house, the less resources, heat, light, water and impact to the environment.
Energy Efficiency- The “low hanging fruit” of the fossil fuel tree has already been picked. Regardless of what you have heard about oil shale and tar sands and vast deposit of natural gas, what are left are small pockets, remotely located and/or stuff requiring costly or environmentally damaging extraction methods. (Please view the documentary, Gas Land.) It’s time we get off it. Every house has the potential to generate all of its own energy. Solar water heating, solar and wind generated electricity are all common technologies, and every house has enough roof area to accommodate sufficient solar panels. Energy efficient appliances and lighting reduce demand.
Design- All new construction should incorporate passive solar design and earth sheltering. Passive solar design uses south-facing windows to accept the sun’s rays. Dark colored, high mass materials absorb the sun’s warmth during the day and re-radiate it at night. A properly designed overhang keeps the high summer sun off the windows. Earth sheltering, particularly on the north side, protects against cold north winds and provides basement-like coolness in summer.
Water Efficiency- All new construction should incorporate water conservation. A possible water conservation feature is separate gray water (shower and bathroom sinks) and black water (toilets and the kitchen sink). Gray water can be used to water your garden. Other water saving features include: waterless urinals and dual flush toilets (one button for number one, the other for number two) low-flow showerheads and rooftop catchments systems. Every house, even in New Mexico, should be able to capture enough usable water.
Impediments to sustainability are exuded by our consumer culture. We are constantly bombarded by advertising that implies that bigger is better, and fancier is sexier. Resist! Turn off the TV. Read and educate yourself on the topics that will make this a better planet (and you much happier). Collectively, our individual efforts will devolve the consumer culture.
And if you think about it, our ultimate home is Planet Earth, the one shelter we all share. Let's all pitch in and take care of it, if not for ourselves, for our children. Just like the Native American proverb says, We don't inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.
Thanks, Jeff. I can't wait to read your book!
Photo: Seattle Arboretum. Canon 40D, focal length 61mm, exposure time 1/6.