When Will Green Remodeling Be Normal

Mary Butler

Green remodeling is often portrayed as a more expensive route to pursue than traditional renovation projects. And it one sense, that's true. Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood is more expensive than wood that comes from forests that aren't managed responsibly, recycled glass tile costs more than ordinary glass tile, and wool or recycled carpet is more expensive than other carpet.

But being green is about more than buying eco products. It's really about living a more sustainable life. And that might be the real problem.

Green Remodeling Becomes the Norm

The New York Times Magazine recently published an article about how consumers decide what's normal. There was a time when it was a luxury to have indoor plumbing. But today, it's "normal" to not only have multiple bathrooms in your home, but to also expect two sinks, a jetted bathtub and high water pressure.

"No one has ever said, 'My water pressure is too high' or 'I want one sink instead of two,' " Michael Strong of Houston contractor Brothers Strong, told the magazine.

How true. There's virtue in conserving energy and water. But it can be hard to get excited about something that seems like taking a step backward. And then there's the sexy factor. When you spend time and money on a project, you want to be able to show it off.

Paul Eldrenkamp, president of Massachusetts construction company Byggmeister Inc., told the Times magazine that it's easier to imagine friends being impressed by the virtue of your recycled-glass bathroom tiles than by properly sealed air-conditioning ducts, even though more systemic projects have "orders of magnitude" more impact.

Green Remodeling: The Costs are Worth It

Often resource efficient upgrades--especially if their added cost isn't readily apparent--just aren't as satisfying as other home improvements and that can put a damper on doing the projects at all.

So for now, green remodeling might feel a bit like taking your medicine: You know it's good for you (and future generations), so you do it. But being as green as you can be might not ever feel truly normal.

The good news is that society's idea of normal is always changing. Your and your children can change that. And they're growing up green, thanks to you.


Rob Walker • Refurbishing Normal

New York Times Magazine

About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.

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