Things that we all could use:

  • Build what you need. A smaller house that fits your needs saves money and resources.
  • Open those windows. Natural ventilation is healthy and it's free.
  • Don't forget the Sun. If you live in a hot climate- use shades. If you live in a cold climate- bring sunlight in.
  • Use local materials. 
  • Use native plants. They are low on maintenance and irrigation.
  • Avoid synthetic materials. Natural materials age gracefully and are not a burden on the environment once they have fulfilled their role.
  • Collect and use rainwater. 
  • Functional things don't go out of style. Go easy on the 'trends'.
  • Grow vegetables in your kitchen garden.
  • Use a front loading washing machine. It saves water.
  • Dry clothes in the Sun. Tell your Residents' association to go soak their heads.
  • Don't waste food.
  • Don't use plastic bags. Reusable grocery bags are cool.
  • Kids need hugs. They have enough toys.
  • Use Stairs. It's a good workout.
  • Walk.


Add your suggestions in comments.

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Comment by Vishal Charles on September 7, 2011 at 10:00pm

Found this in a forum and thought I'd share it with you guys:

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment."

He was right, that generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But they didn't have the green thing back in that customer's day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she was right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right; they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she's right; they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But they didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn't have the green thing back then?

Comment by Phil Henshaw on September 2, 2011 at 2:59am

The concept of adjusting for things like climate zones is right, but I think climate zone wouldn't be a reliable indicator of the energy/$ the world economy puts into things.  The supply chains of all commerce seem to be global.    In Alaska things would just cost more dollars, as that tends to be how the economy works, rather than have the same price and be allowed to use more energy per dollar.   The world economy seems to treat energy as a 'liquid resource" to allocate in the quantities people can use equally profitably, to maximize world GDP...  

Anyway, that's a complex question, and the scientific know-how needed to study and answer it don't exist yet.   I think starting to compare the average environmental cost of spending with the perceived benefits of spending is the first step, and for that it'd be fine to use the simple world average values.   

Comment by Robert P Fryer on September 1, 2011 at 10:33pm

I so agree, it's a sin the way space and materials are wasted..


Comment by Archisage on September 1, 2011 at 9:46pm

Phil- Just like climatic zones, the concept of average energy content should be different for different economic zones. Average energy could be misleading and subject poor economies to predatory carbon economy of the developed world.

This is a text book example of why we need to promote common sense sustainability in building design- to protect architecture from lawyers and accountants. No offense meant.

Comment by Phil Henshaw on August 31, 2011 at 5:09am

There's a critical line item to add, comparing the value of the purposes you spend on to the typical environmental cost of operating the economy.  

To validly simplify that, stick with average energy content, world Energy/$GDP = ~8000btu/$ and world carbon production ~.5kg/$GDP.    The first thing you notice is WOW that's a lot of energy and pollution to account for.   To not count it you'd need to have some good reason to think what you spend on takes all the supply chains of the economy way below average energy to deliver.  

The reality seems to be that the amount of physical cost for things is very largely hidden from view, and estimating it as "average" is going to be far more accurate than estimating it as the visible impacts.   So, the sustainability question... is whether your purpose for the money you spend or invest counteracts the direct effect of 8000btu/$ and .5kg/$ it probably costs the environment.   See also:   and

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