Small Home Gazette, Winter 2008
Letter From the Editor: how green is your bungalow
How green is your bungalow?
In 2008, “green” means many things: energy efficiency, recycling and reuse, energy from renewable sources, chemical free, indoor environmental quality, conserving resources, etc. Any product marketer with half a brain is singing the “green” praises of what they’re selling. The U.S. green building services and products market has grown from $7 billion annually in 2005 to $12 billion in 2007.
Take the case of vinyl siding—an admittedly favorite target for criticism by bungalow purists everywhere. Vinyl’s share of the home siding market is declining—down to 32 percent in 2007 from its peak of 37 percent in 2002. The decline is attributed to news that the manufacturing process for vinyl introduces many more dangerous chemicals into our environment than alternative products. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently evaluated home siding products.*
The USGBC is the nonprofit organization that administers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program for buildings of all types. This group strives to set and raise the bar for “green” buildings everywhere.
How does vinyl siding relate to our desire to be “green”? The USGBC says that from an environmental perspective vinyl siding is comparable to or better than competing products. They cited vinyl’s durability, long life span, and, get this: “lack of maintenance needs.”
Apparently, the authors never conducted an Internet search for “painting vinyl siding.” They would have found hundreds of web pages on how to prepare vinyl siding for painting, cleaning products, power washing dos and don’ts, and which paint formulations to use.
So if the people supposedly leading the way on green building services and products are this ignorant of how people maintain vinyl siding, how is the average homeowner supposed to sort out what’s green and what’s not?
I haven’t a clue. Most of what I read are simple comparisons of a handful of products on a small number of criteria. For instance, “product A uses less energy than product B, therefore it is more green.” There appears to be little in the way of solid information written for the average consumer on “green” services and products.
I try to make better choices rather than search for the one, best choice. After all, that one, best choice will likely be replaced by an even better choice next year. Even considering “green” criteria like energy efficiency and recycled content is a great start!
And most importantly, living in a comparatively small home and maintaining its quality materials and products is the greenest choice of all.
* Read more about the “greenness” of home siding products by the U.S. Green Building Council. Their February 2007 report is online at: www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=2372. Be forewarned that it’s 205 pages!