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You go, Green Girl!

November 9, 2009

greenAt this point, sustainability has gone beyond fresh idea to become buzzword, bandwagon (for hopping on) and, sigh, in some circles, empty expression of trendiness.

A local institution, desirous of reusing an old masonry residence, recently forwarded a proposal they’d received from an architecture firm that specializes in sustainability (I sense I should wrap that word in quote marks here).  I expected to review an interesting design document providing creative approaches for rehabbing the building to meet the needs of the institution.  Instead the “green approach” this firm recommended amounted to gutting the place, removing the old windows, stripping off the porch — their attitude seemed to be that an old building just can’t be green and sustainable but if you insist, best only to use the shell of stone and then start over using “green materials.”

Oh, dear.  That’s just not right.  (For frustrating post on a similar topic, read “Nature Conservancy, Anonymous Posts and Demolition” at the PlaceEconomics Blog.)

We may have a new ally in the struggles to align preservation of old buildings with the green mentality.  Oprah’s on the bandwagon and she’s brought along a friend with an old house. 

Sustainability professor and “regular person” Simran Sethi just bought an 84 year-old house-of-her-dreams in the middle of the country and is going to walk the walk, not just talk the talk when it comes to sustainability.  (How many cliches can I load into this post?)

She’ll be writing a blog on Oprah’s website sharing her experiences as she transforms her two-story house into a green home.  She’ll demonstrate weatherstripping, insulation, and I will bet you my life savings she’ll get into the window controversy (new or old, save or replace?).  She’ll cover techniques to improve energy efficiency and conserve natural resources.

You can follow her at her Oprah-hosted blog.  Click to read Greening the Green Girl.

Here’s an excerpt if you’re pressed for time:

simran-sethi-door-190x130I am a journalism professor, a working journalist who focuses on sustainability and someone folks like Oprah have called “an eco-expert.” It’s true I know a thing or two about Mother Earth, but there is always more to learn….  I have experienced much of our natural world in the once-removed fashion of the urban apartment dweller.  I have never mowed a lawn, my ex weather-stripped our apartment and my landlord installed my low-flow showerhead. I held seeds for the first time two years ago at an incredible urban farm in Kansas City.  And while I have told millions of people about water conservation and energy reduction, I have never owned a dual-flush toilet or had an opportunity to really consider my insulation. Now is my chance to embrace the well-worn clichés: walk my talk and put my money where my mouth is. You are going to bear witness to this green girl going green. I know that my reputation and your trust are paramount. To that end, I am not going to hold back. You are going to bear witness to my messy, humbling process of making my home more energy-efficient, less polluting and more beautiful.

I will share small and large changes that reap the greatest benefit (to your pocketbook and to the planet) and let you in on the products I am using. Some of the companies have given me a break on the cost, for which I am most grateful. But the truth is, I was going to buy them anyway and had budgeted accordingly.  If they are good enough for me, I am going to assume you will like them too.  And if something doesn”t work for me, you will learn that too.

If you have contemplated making your home more environmentally friendly, join me. With terrific federal energy efficiency tax credits in place for 2009 and 2010 and a groundswell of information about how we are effecting the world around us, there is no better time to get started. You can start small with weather-stripping  around doors and windows or get more ambitious with insulation or energy-efficient furnaces. Don’t worry. I will cover all of it. I may not do all if it myself, but I will try. Well, at least some of it. (My friends are determined for me to DIY.)

The first things I will be tackling are: getting rid of the brown recluse spiders that live in my basement and are known to make your flesh die (yes, die), insulating my ceiling (a major escape hatch for heat) and redoing my walls and floors.
I believe my home should be a reflection of all that I care about. I strive to create a healthy and rejuvenating refuge that integrates my passions and values and nurtures my mind, body and soul…a home, sweet, home.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2009 10:37 am

    excellent! i’m currently on the not-replacing the windows track, mainly because i cannot afford to do so. but, i am investigating the insulated window treatment for (hopefully) elegant drapes with a hidden lining of protection against surging power bills.

    once again, you’ve done it: written about points of relevance for old and new.

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      November 9, 2009 10:46 am

      Greenies will tell you that you are doing the right thing by the planet — better to caulk and insulate and reuse old windows than to put in new ones that are designed to fail within 15 years, at which point you need new ones and the old ones go into the dump and so on…..

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