What’s The Point Of “Building Green”?

Being green is all the rage nowadays, and no less so where building a new house is concerned.  But what does “green consumerism” really mean, and how can it affect you?

Green Consumerism

“Green consumerism,” a phrase first coined around the mid-80’s, has a multitude of nuances, but at its most basic level, it means “buying green (i.e., environmentally-friendly) products” (source: Gosden).  According to Julia Hailes, the “triple bottom line [of green consumerism]” is that it is “economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially responsible” (source: Hailes). In other words, it’s not being green just for the sake of being green; it’s being green as long as it makes sense financially to be green.

“Light Green” or “Dark Green”?

Don’t misunderstand – most consumers realize that simply switching to fluorescent bulbs is not going to save the environment.  But then again, at its most basic level, simply “consuming” runs counter to saving the environment.  That’s why some devout environmentalists – Paul Hawken, for instance – believe that “The phrase [green consumerism] itself is an oxymoron” (source: Hesse).  In reality, “The greenest option [is]: don’t buy!” (source: Hailes)  Because of this split, some have begun to differentiate being “dark green” (efforts made to truly try to save the planet) from being “light green” (efforts to just do our part in helping the environment).

What This Means For You

So what does this mean for you?  Before you begin building your new “green” home, you need to answer some basic questions, the first being “Why do I want to build green?”  If saving the environment is something that ranks high on your list of priorities in life, then you are most likely going to be more concerned about the impact on the environment than on the cost.  If, however, you are a more middle-of-the-road environmentalist – or perhaps even just a concerned consumer – you will be more likely to incorporate the green features that pay you back.  Either way, information is going to be your biggest asset.  As an informed consumer, you should:

  • not build green just because it is a trend.  While this “light green” form of environmentalism is popular now, it might not be all the rage when you get ready to sell, and that could hurt your bottom line.
  • not be afraid to ask your builder to calculate the time it will take to pay off green features in your home.
  • question any builder who tries to push you into a decision rather than simply inform you.  Whether you go “light green” or “dark green” should be up to you.  It’s your money, after all.
  • consider looking into LEED certification.  According to the U.S. Green Building Council’s “Green Home Guide”, “LEED for Homes is a voluntary rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes” (source: USGBC).  This is a great source for information when looking to incorporate cost-effective green features into your new home.

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