What’s the cost of going green?

We’ve been talking about consumption, waste, and high living standards a lot in this module, and it almost seems as though these things are here to stay. How can we all possibly reconcile our desire to own homes and live out our “American Dream” with the knowledge that this very system is what is destroying our environment and hurting people at all levels?

My mom’s family is, in the most loving way, a bunch of hippies. I say this loosely, and I hope it doesn’t discredit them to people when I tell them this. Facebook has allowed me to connect with those odd and distant first-,second-, and third-cousins that I probably wouldn’t know otherwise, and so I’ve learned more about my family. In 2009, my mom’s cousin assisted in building a zero energy home. The house, a humble 1152 sq ft single-family home, was built in Massachusetts and touts a Platinum LEED rating.

Zero Energy in MA

The site above actually goes through and breaks down all of the materials used to build it. From the frame, to the floors, to the heating and paint, you can see exactly what made this house net 0 energy used. I think what impressed me the most was that the total cost of the home was comparable to any other home you would buy. With a price tag of $180,000 to build, it’s difficult for me to understand why builders aren’t leaping to include at least SOME of these features in the homes they sell.

Of course, zero energy use comes with a sacrifice. The home does not have a dish machine or a clothes dryer. There is no information provided as far as plumbing is concerned, but I would assume anyone looking to reduce their footprint would use a grey-water system at the very least. The relinquishment of our “comforts” and conveniences is not seen as positive, and often times the apparent glass ceiling for truly sustainable living. It’s hard to see the benefit of giving up a dish machine in the name of saving the planet when we live in a society so obsessed with instant gratification. What this home would save you in money, you may pay for in time spent dunking your plates into a soapy sink.

Overall, I like the idea of living in a home like this. Despite some of the sacrifices, the house still ran internet, computers and phones like any other home, it still had heating and air conditioning, and it certainly wasn’t only 300 sq ft. While consumption comes in many forms, I think steps in this direction are important in catalyzing even more change.


Kaylin Brodzki


One thought on “What’s the cost of going green?

  1. One issue when designing a zero energy or even green home is that building and plumbing codes and zoning require things like furnaces, indoor plumbing, etc. and also restrict the use of other innovative technologies like gray water systems. This is a system problem that everyone of us can work on through the political process.

    Mike Cappel


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