Categories
Uncategorized

Tiny Houses: A Cover Up for Continued Suburban Sprawl

KB Home (Homebuilding Company based in the US) has introduced a new 881 square foot eco-home in the Houston area. These homes are energy star certified and have features such as “eco-friendly carpet”, “energy-efficient appliances”, and “low-e windows”. While all these features are nice and are much more sustainable than most of the wasteful behemoths being built today, these tiny houses are still not addressing the real problem at hand. That problem is the continued trend of suburban sprawl. Suburban sprawl as defined on Wikipedia is “the expansion of human populations away from central urban areas into previously remote and rural areas, often resulting in communities reliant upon heavy automobile usage.” This type of growth is not sustainable at all no matter how green a house you build. These houses will certainly take up much less space than the common small family houses (especially in Houston), but they still allow for people to continue their wasteful and unsustainable lifestyles. They still have two-bay tandem garages which in the article say can be used to park your hybrid or electric car, which is another form of greenwashing. Life in a car-reliant suburbia is a place nobody should have to live. They lead to insanely long commutes, one of the biggest reasons we are so reliant on fossil fuels, and are also a huge reason why Americans are in the top three fattest countries in the world.

In order to halt the sprawl of suburbia and our dependency on fossil fuels, we need to look at new housing developments in a completely different way. First, we need to set a growth cap on the metropolitan areas to limit where developers could place new housing communities. If you want to build a home outside of this cap it will have to for farming purposes only. Land near the furthest extent of the cap should also be made more expensive so developers will have incentive to stay closer to the urban center. Developers that want to make communities that adhere to “New Urbanism” (High density, public transit, walkable) principles will be given subsidies so that smart, sustainable growth will more profitable. The only way this could become a reality is public awareness. In the US especially, people are fairly uniformed about urban planning and how our communities could be improved. Now if this all came together most people would not have to own a car, people would become more familiar with their neighbors and build a friendly community, and we also would be on a great track to eliminating our dependency on fossil fuels.

By: Sam Fitzner

http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/houston-gets-greener-with-itsy-bitsy-energy-efficient-homes.html

Categories
Uncategorized

Welcome to the Dark Side

In recent years, LED light bulbs have begun to pose a huge threat to Standard Incandescent, Halogen Incandescent, and Compact Fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs. LED lightbulbs are reported to not contain mercury, have a significantly longer lifespan, and also save homeowners a note-worthy amount of money over time. The promise of quality and savings may persuade consumers to purchase one of these remarkable LED lightbulbs at $20-$50, over a $0.60 Incandescent. However, one might question if there are any other cons beside the obvious increase in price. Welcome to the Dark Side! According to a study published in 2010 by the journal, Environmental Science and Technology, researchers found that LEDs contain lead, arsenic, and a dozen other potentially dangerous substances. Thus, making the high praising conversation around these energy efficient lightbulbs a possible attempt to hide the unpleasant facts in an environmental context, also known as “green washing.” Green washing is when a company or organization spends more money and time claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing, than actually conducting business practices that minimize environmental impact. In the case of LED lightbulbs, the pros to seem to outweigh the cons as the bulbs still prove to be the best choice on the market for energy savings, light quality, and environmental footprint. Also, in today’s society, some form of lighting is a necessity. The example of greenwashing in regards to LED lighting poses a need to change in readily available and factual information. The risks of the LED bulbs should be readily available to consumers along with the benefits. At this time, one thing remains unchanged and that is that LED bulbs have replaced unsafe options with a “better” unsafe option.

As scientists work to invent a better lightbulb, a positive alternative may be appear simpler than that. Solar lighting and natural sunlight would present as a safer and more energy efficient system to receiving light all together. However, as the majority of homes in America are electrically wired, and solar panelling systems are costly, this would require a transformation on many levels. A political transformation would have to take place to provide more encouragement and assistance with taking this route in home lighting. A social transformation would have to take place as society as a whole would need to slow down and see the benefits of solar lighting. An economic transformation would need to occur to make the systems more affordable and attainable for all classes. A technological transformation would also need to occur in order to transition homes from electrical wiring to solar power systems in an affordable and convenient way. Technically speaking, this is not impossible and could occur one day. I believe however, that this is a slow transition that has already begun to take place. This will take many years and many transformational events to become common place in the lighting of American homes.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/led-lightbulb-concerns/

http://www.sunrun.com/solar-lease/cost-of-solar/

https://www2.dteenergy.com

http://themetapicture.com/dark-side-promises/

Written by Dallas Smith