Who Cares If It Is Green, Is It Ethical?

Preston at Jetson Green asks:

At a time when luxury living is scrutinized for excess energy consumption, why not build a 5 bedroom, 6.5 bath high-end home with a "small environmental footprint"? Seriously, with smart, energy-efficient design (read: 4 extra solar panels), you can generate enough electricity to run all 6 interior refrigerators. And by using recycled and reclaimed wood (where possible of course), non-toxic blow-in insulation, and low-VOC finishings, this home is going to surpass Built Green standards. Designers worked their hearts out to build the greenest home possible without sacrificing precious square footage, and this home could house at least four regular sized families by our calculations. You'll be glad to know this hulking home, located at 995 Longbow Place in Larkspur, Colorado, is on sale for the very reasonable, and very green, price of $4.5 million..... Are we confusing the words "green," "sustainable," "energy efficient," and "small footprint"? You tell me, is this green?

Joe Romm at Grist asks:

A "speculative 15,000 square foot mansion in Manalapan, Fla., will be the first home of its size to be certified green by the U.S. Green Building Council and the Florida Green Building Council."

Is that a good idea for USGBC? That's my question to you. Obviously people are going to build big homes -- and it is better if they have green features. But should USGBC single out such "eco-mansions" for positive recognition?

The builder of the Manalapan house isn't too happy with LEED either, who has to earn 26 other points to compensate for its size. According to the Design-Build network:

Because his eight-bedroom mansion is so large, he must earn 26 extra points to achieve the same certification as an average-size house with a typical square-foot-to-bedroom ratio. McKinney won't know his total score until the 'green police' determine whether the completed house qualifies. Calling the 26 points a 'huge deterrent', McKinney wonders, "Why are you penalising someone who wants to go green? I guarantee we're going to work to change that for future builders."

I think there is a better question. It may or may not be green, but is it ethical? Is it right? Leo Hickman says

"Ethical means above all taking personal responsibility. This in turn means considering the "sustainability" of everything you do- making sure that your actions do not have a negative influence on you or more importantly the wider world. As more and more people around the world, rightly or wrongly, aspire to and obtain western lifestyles, the pressure on natural resources will become even more intense. Therefore, a major tenet of ethical living is to attempt, wherever possible, to reduce one's own demand for resources... Simply, it is a call to consume a fairer and more proportionate slice of the pie.

In the UK, there is another standard, a set of questions one asks that ensure that the building truly has a positive impact. It is the One Planet Living guidelines from Bioregional, where they say


To achieve a sustainable future, we need to design communities which enable people to live sustainably. Clearly, the situation in different countries will vary. Factors such as the commuting distance between home and work, where the food comes from, and how waste is dealt with will be as important as, if not more important than, the energy performance of the buildings.

Their criteria:


It is time to look past the bamboo floors and ask what is right and what is appropriate. It is time to look past "is it green?" and ask "is it ethical?" ::Bioregional

Tags: Green Building | One Planet Living