If you’re anything like me, you were raised with the mindset of caring deeply about the environment. Maybe you’re on your own now in the great big world, and you find eco-friendly consideration to be habitual. Even though you may have saved up enough cash to buy your first home, one question keeps hanging around in the back of your mind.
Is home purchase a life decision that negates your inherent stance of sustainable responsibility?
Building from scratch
There’s something about being able to draft out your own living space that feels both exciting and empowering. Such a possibility pulls at your creative spirit and opens up a plethora of design options. However, the overall environmental cost is likely astronomical.
If you are considering building on a vacant plot, the land will have to be razed. Already, a marked increase in your carbon footprint is in effect. Alteration of the existent flora and fauna as well as fossil fuel guzzling and off-gassing from large machine operation starts a construction chain of events destined to do far more harm than good.
Buying a home
Purchase of a pre-existing home saves environment and land cost, as well as that of building materials. A considerable added benefit is the ability to modify your structure of choice to incorporate green components such as solar power and rainwater recycling.
However, opportunities to share resources with other families remain limited. Sure, you might organize carpools and plan to shop communally for bulk items, but the bottom line is your house stands and functions independently of those around it.
Choosing a rental property
When multiple families occupy a single structure, as is the case with most condominium and apartment units, space utilization is highly efficient. That’s great news for your carbon footprint, as well as your wallet.
Consider looking for rental facilities that include the use of common amenities such as a pool, playground, workout center, party room or clubhouse. You won’t have to outsource extra funds for health and recreation or commute to enjoy such activities.
Monitoring energy efficiency
Another responsible environmental benefit to renting is communal energy-efficiency. Structures that house multiple families tend to hold heat well because there’s not a lot of internal fast-cooling open space.
Rental facilities place area path and spotlights in strategic locations so even at night visibility remains clear. Tenants find themselves paying lower unit electric bills as a result.
Landlords are responsible for conscientiously updating structural efficiency enhancements both to please tenants and keep overall operation costs low. Renters can do their part by making sure green preference is well communicated to property managers.
Taking up green space
Collective outdoor sport and recreation features such as basketball courts, playgrounds and pools cut down on the amount of green space any single family takes up.
If forty families share one play area, for instance, it prevents as many as thirty-nine backyard climbers and swing sets from being erected. The same goes for swimming pools, which use many valuable resources such as supply water and electricity.
Exploring garden possibilities
Owning a home on your own property gives rise to countless landscape possibilities. You might envision an in-ground vegetable garden, fruit trees and multi-tiered shrubbery. If you’ve got a deck, you’ll probably want to maintain colorful container foliage and annual flowers as well.
But renting does not preclude agricultural effort. In fact, it may encourage more creative practice. Small terrace or balcony gardens are not difficult to start, and, once in motion, often develop into intricate floral displays.
Because square footage is limited, it’s not uncommon for tenants to use both horizontal and vertical space. Hanging plants, ivy-covered trellises and window boxes turn tiny terraces into veritable Gardens of Eden. Multiply all those mini oases, and you’ve got some serious greening going on!
Connecting to transportation
Practical rental communities are conveniently located near major bus and train stops. When it comes to sustaining eco-friendly commuting programs such as bike share centers and local van transport, there’s nothing like living in close proximity to folks who are similarly out and about — especially if they’re like-minded regarding the efficient use of fossil fuels.
Whether you ultimately choose to build, buy or rent, careful consideration of these vital environmental factors should keep you firmly in sync with your eco-conscious upbringing — as well as your eco-conscience.
This is a guest post written by Kate Harveston.
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her writing focuses on politics and the environment, with a particular emphasis on social change. You can follow her writing by visiting her blog, So Well, So Woman.