By: Matt Grocoff
IS NATURE SAFE FROM OUR HOMES?
Homes exist to shelter us from storms, protect us from the elements, and keep us safe from nature. But, is nature safe from our homes?
Henry Pollack, author of “A World Without Ice” and who with his colleagues on the International Panel on Climate Change shared the Nobel Prize, says that he’s often asked whether he’s concerned that the surge of eco-tourism will damage the ecosystem of Antarctica. He answers that he’s far less concerned about what tourists do when they put their footprint on the continent on a five day visit than he is about their alarming ability to melt Antarctic ice as a result of their actions when they are in their own homes during the other 360 days of the year.
The 130 million existing homes in the US are responsible for nearly a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, if all new homes were built to net zero energy it would reduce our emissions by zero. Mitigation and adaptation really do start at home - your home - Now.
BIG IDEA - ENERGYBALL
If we are capable of destroying the planet from the comfort of our own homes, then the converse must be true. By redefining home and making houses places of comfort, restoration and healing, both psychological and physical, we can indeed become a regenerative society.
My family’s folk-Victorian home is 111-years-old, has the original windows, an uninsulated basement, minimal wall insulation (only R-13), and was restored without a gut rehab. Yet - by using smart performance targets outside of HERS, LEED, or EnergyStar, we created a home that is the oldest in America to achieve documented net zero energy. Importantly, the home is optimally cozy and healthy and the energy retrofit was only around $50k, including on-site solar PV to produce more than we consume.