A green home benefits a family in several real, deep ways. The first and most important way is that it benefits our health. A green home is built with materials that do not off-gas toxic fumes, so the air is cleaner from day one.
Green homes also have outdoor air intakes and good air filtration systems — so the air stays clean, which helps prevent respiratory illnesses. Green means you pay attention to the furnishings, finishings, and cleaning supplies that you bring into your home, reducing a family's exposure to toxic chemicals. Though not required by LEED, a water filtration system is typical in green homes. If you think about how much water you are exposed to — drinking water, coffee, soups; bathing; washing clothes — having clean water is a huge health benefit.
Second, living green saves time and money, on an ongoing basis. Most people know that green homes cost less to operate with lower electricity and water bills. But what people might not know is that green homes can require less time.
Example #1: LED lights require replacement every 10-20 years or so, so that's definitely less time running to Home Depot to get new light bulbs and then finding a ladder to replace the bulbs!
Example #2: Many green homes have ground-source heat pumps to heat and cool their home. Ground-source heat pumps do not have outdoor air conditioning compressors, which means you don't have to spend time cleaning it out every spring and fall.
Example #3: Green homes are typically more durable and are furnished with long-lasting materials. That means less time fixing and replacing lower quality furnishings, and that's more time available to be with family!
Finally, it sets a great example for our children that we are doing the right thing for the planet — and for their future. I have taught sustainability lessons to 6th graders for the past several years, and I was surprised and impressed by how many of them just got it. They understood the need to be greener and were driven to make a difference. Indeed, my 8-year old daughter recently remarked: "Mommy — you do all these things around sustainability and we don't even compost!" (I am well aware of this and plan to start worm composting this fall.)
I would go so far as to say that a green home not only benefits a family, but it benefits our society. As Tom Friedman so articulately wrote in The New York Times earlier this month:
"[The country's narrative] has to be infused with values, and, in our case, the most obvious is "sustainability," which doesn't simply mean 'green' or 'no growth.' It means behaving responsibly in the market and with Mother Nature so we can have growth that lasts. What 'freedom' was for our parents' generation, 'sustainability' has to be for ours. If we do not bring sustainable values to our banking systems and ecosystems, we are going to end up more 'unfree' than if the communists had won the cold war — because without sustainable practices, repeated crises in the market and Mother Nature will impose more limitations on our way life than anything the Soviets ever could have."
Melissa provides sustainability consulting services for businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Melissa is also the founder of Green Intention LLC, where she writes and blogs about her experience in getting her own home LEED Gold certified--and then trying to live more sustainably in the home. She chairs her congregation’s Task Force for Sustainability, has her MBA, Master's in Public Policy, and is a LEED AP for Homes.