Question: Is it possible to be green in a smaller footprint home?
Answer: I love this question, because so many articles are written about how the greenest homes are the smallest homes. Yes, smaller homes use less energy and less materials, and are therefore considered "greener." But does that mean larger homes cannot be green? No. Any size home can be green. How? By incorporating green features for energy efficiency, water efficiency, sustainable site, healthy indoor air quality, and efficient use of materials and resources. It also helps if the homeowner has the intention to be green — by turning out lights, turning down thermostats, taking short showers, using cloth napkins, etc.
But still ... why is it that any size house be green? Because green is relative to what that same home would have been had it not been green. The United States Green Building Council agrees, and they allow any home to attain LEED certification. While the point threshold for LEED certification increases for larger homes (and rightly so), the USGBC never puts a limit on the size of the home, because it's not in their best interest to exclude larger homes.
The mentality that only small footprint homes can be green is not only unfair to the wealthy homeowner (who wants a larger-than-average home), but alienating. As a society, we want people who can afford green technologies, products, and materials, to buy them. For our economy, that helps increase demand, lower costs, and enables more people to be able to afford to go green — all good things.
I am by no means advocating a movement toward large footprint homes; rather, I would like to see the green movement embrace all shapes and sizes of office buildings and homes and neighborhoods — to catapult more of us down the road to a more sustainable built environment.
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.