Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Here Comes The Sun

We’re planning to move closer to Austin, Texas, sometime in the next year. We have a beautiful little piece of ground that backs up to a year round creek, and want to build as green as possible. Hydropower is unfortunately not an option, but we can and will make as much use as we can afford of the available solar and wind technologies.It’s going to be expensive in the short term but as far as I can tell, with rising energy costs we’ll be able to recoup our investments a lot faster than the projected 20 to 30 years.

Research isn’t as easy as I hoped it would be, for there is an almost paralyzing number of websites out there for people interested in building green, and with the nature of Internet search engines it’s sometimes hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.I’ve spent most of my life trying to be as green as possible, and still have a life. When I was sixteen I planted an organic vegetable garden, mulched with hay to keep the water bill down. Of course, I was in Port Neches, Texas at the time, and the air, dirt, and groundwater was poisoned by decades of runoff and discharge from the nearby petrochemical plants. Looking back, I probably ingested more poison that harvest season than if I had just bought everything at the local grocery store.

Now we know better, at least most of us do. More and more average people are paying attention to where their food comes from, and how it was treated. I’ve been boring the hell out of my family and friends for the past five years or so that organic food was going to save the American family farm. Even supermarkets have organic alternatives now, and they are increasing the number of green items for sale on an almost weekly basis. My wife and I have been buying organic as much as we could for several years, and the first thing we noticed was that organic tastes better. A lot better. Most times it’s also much more nutritious.

Organic farmer’s markets are popping up all over the place, and the demand for green living is no longer limited to the pantry. Architects specialize in green design. Bamboo has become the wood (even though it’s a grass) of choice for flooring. More of us recycle. Electric cars are back in vogue, and this time it looks like they’ll be here to stay.

Our new home will have a rainwater catchment system, a gray water recovery system, passive solar hot water, solar panels, wind turbines, and will be constructed of as much natural material as possible. We’ll also have a greenhouse and a small orchard. In short, we plan to be as self-sufficient as we can without living like Trappist monks. We’ll still have the big TV, air conditioning (My wife is from Minnesota. She does not do sweaty.), and all the other modern amenities that make life grand. We just want to do it without adding to the problem.

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