Monday, January 08, 2007

Troubling trends: Organic popcorn futures up, home prices down

With the holidays in full effect and the remodel timeline urging us to distract ourselves, we've been catching up on our movie watching. Even though our holiday card said otherwise, the house is still uninhabitable and as a result, we put all visions of sugar plums on hold until next year.

Overall, there weren't any true cinematic standouts although we both enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada and Little Miss Sunshine. Other movies on our 'recently viewed' list are Friends with Money, The Family Stone, Failure to Launch, Lady in the Water, Thank you for Smoking, You, Me and Dupree, Clerks II and, the one you may not enjoy but ought to see, An Inconvenient Truth.

I still don't like Al Gore as a Presidential candidate, but I definitely think his movie is worth watching. If this strange spring weather in New England doesn't convince you, the science presented in the movie might. It's both compelling and depressing; I can't help but feel that a tidal wave from the Arctic ice shelf is imminent. It makes me wish that we could counteract global warming in the public and private sectors more aggressively. Unfortunately, the American public doesn't feel the same way. I was disheartened to hear a recent survey indicating the environment fell at the bottom of our collective priority list. I wonder if the majority of our nation saw the movie whether they'd change their minds. With all due respect to our service men and women, I wonder what difference a few Iraqi insurgents will make when half the Middle East is under water.

After the movie, I was sufficiently frightened about our planet's future and began researching what I can do to make a difference. Although the film itself doesn't offer many suggestions for the average American, the associated website does. And since our remodel is one of my most consuming thoughts these days, I took solace in how we've tried to get through the project with our micro and macro environments in mind.

We've been trying to do our part by renovating our not so big house instead of building brand new. Throughout the renovation we've made eco-friendly design choices wherever it was feasible, cost effective and didn't sacrifice the house's colonial integrity. Here's a rundown of our green remodeling practices:

-started by hiring a licensed deleader who brought the house into Massachusetts compliance and safely disposed of the lead paint.
-chose locally sourced materials including Vermont slate flooring and Canadian granite countertops instead of the typical varieties that get shipped from half a world away.
-purchased all new Energy Star appliances and "freecycled" the out of date ones to individuals using even older, less efficient models. Ours didn't end up in a landfill and the new appliance owners get to use something more efficient than what they had.
-installed new Energy Star certified thermostats.
-selected new windows and doors that have low-e glass and are Energy Star qualified.
-referenced California's Title 24 guidelines to implement a lighting plan that minimizes electricity usage without sacrificing light quality. Also installed Energy Star fluorescent light fixtures wherever light color was not an issue like in closets and on the front of the house.
-weatherized the attic and vast crawl spaces beneath the living areas with insulation certified by GreenGuard.
-used zero-VOC Sherwin Williams paints throughout to minimize offgassing.
-refinished hardwood floors with low-VOC water based finishes.
-removed wall to wall carpeting to improve indoor air quality.
-installed a high quality water filter in the kitchen so we could safely drink our tap water.
-designed recycling stations into our kitchen layout.
-using natural cleaning products in post construction cleanup.

Taking just these small steps helps me feel a little better about my responsibility in the environmental crisis. I challenge you to take some steps, however small, to do the same.
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