How investing in a little sustainable efficiency can simplify and streamline your life, and help you accrue crucial financial savings over time.
Americans worry a lot. We worry about our kids, we worry about our work, and we worry about ourselves. We worry about the direction the nation is heading, about the economy, and about the restructuring of society thanks to globalization and, social and demographic changes. We even worry about what to eat for lunch. And of course, we spend a lot of time worrying about personal finances.
Considering how full our collective plates are, it’s no surprise that other very real issues, such as climate change and anthropogenic global warming, tend to take a backseat in the face of an onslaught of other concerns that demand our immediate attention. To many individuals, being sustainable has become synonymous with expending more effort, more energy, more time, and more money – all of which is in very short supply. When it comes to homes, the idea that green simply costs a great deal more persists despite compelling evidence to the contrary. The truth is, being green is not just a secondary environmental obligation, or even a vague moral onus (although morality is one component). It is also supposed to simplify and streamline your life and save you money along the way. Here’s how.
Everything eventually breaks. And when something breaks, it costs money and material to replace. The more often something breaks, the more money and material that must be consumed in order to repair or replace the broken components in question. In something as complex as a building or a house, there are a lot of things that can potentially break. This is where sustainability comes in. By investing in quality materials and assemblies, maintenance costs are greatly reduced. While building for quality may command a slight premium, it streamlines the life of the house and allows homeowners to enjoy the dwellings they call home.
Investing in quality in order to reduce greater cumulative costs over time can be summed up by the idea of lifecycle costs. Reducing the enormous material waste of components that must be constantly repaired or replaced with durable alternatives not only reduces strain on the environment, but it also reduces the strain on our wallets, and on our patience. For example, many eco-builders recommend metal roofs over traditional shingle roofs for a variety of reasons, including better energy performance and the fact that they can be made from recycled materials. But one of the biggest reasons is simply because metal roofs are easy to maintain and last a lifetime. Sustainable alternatives do typically cost more upfront, but when total lifecycle costs are considered, they are almost always considerably cheaper.
Being sustainable is very much about being efficient. One of the biggest gripes critics have with the green movement has been the movement’s fixation with glamorous new technologies that, while wonderful in a technological sense, simply have not been fully developed yet. This includes things such as using algae to produce liquid fuels. While it could have sustainable applications, that does not necessarily mean that it is inherently sustainable, or even practical. Does slapping a solar array onto your typical suburban McMansion make it green? Probably not. But investing in low-tech, boring insulation, recycling construction materials, and employing some good old fashioned know-how about solar orientation in conjunction with solar panels can indeed be a winning green formula.
The lesson here is that sustainability isn’t about fashion or even about new green technologies. It’s about promoting healthy efficiencies that benefit people on a day to day basis. For example, most people are perfectly content with the way their air conditioner or heater functions (provided that it is functioning). Unfortunately, standard systems operate in an inherently wasteful and energy-intensive way since they must essentially take hot outside air and cool it, or convert freezing cold outside air for toasty indoor temperatures. As many monthly bills can attest, standard air conditioning schemes are ludicrous; we just don’t tend to think about it. On the other hand, sustainable alternatives, such as ground source heat pumps, look to solve the inefficiencies inherent in everyday life. Why throw away money cooling hot air or heating cold air when a geothermal heat pump can use the stabilizing mass of the earth beneath our feet to regulate ambient conditions? Solutions like these tend to escape the public imagination. Nonetheless, these are the precise solutions that underscore the fact that sustainability is about efficient alternatives to current status quos.
For the millions of worry-laden Americans out there, thinking green and building with sustainability in mind needn’t be a drag. In fact, for those looking to avoid numerous home-related headaches down the line, sustainable solutions could just be the right cure for a lifetime of hassle, and unnecessary maintenance and energy costs.
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