Green living trends for 2011
It’s still January, so it’s not too late for a look toward the horizon to see what trends will be influencing homes in not-too-distant future. Here's my list of those trends that I think you will see discussed as the year stretches ahead of us:
New homes will continue to trend towards a smaller footprint. Two reasons for this are the economic pressure of the buying price (and the almighty home appraisal) and a growing consciousness about the operating costs for homes. Today, home appraisals are principally based on the number of baths and bedrooms. The two-story foyers and great rooms will tick your value up or down but not as significantly as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. And those spaces can be efficiently added to home designs within smaller footprints. Historically, homeowners don't ask themselves about the cost of operating the homes they are dreaming of owning. With energy costs continuing to trend upward, a question to ask is, "How can I consider buying a home without knowing what it will cost to operate?"
Here's a trend I've noticed and been dismayed by recently. Not long ago paper products - towels, toilet paper and napkins began appearing in every kind of grocery store touting their recycled content. While my family converted to cloth napkins years ago, I wasn’t successful at eliminating the use of paper towels in my home. I just can't buy toilet paper or paper towels that aren't made from recycled content. These lowly products don't rate the use of trees. And while I used to be able to buy these products with recycled content in three or four places, I recently noticed that these offerings have disappeared from the shelves of the conventional grocery stores. That’s one trend I would definitely like to see reversed, so if you agree, please help me make it so by asking your local grocer to stock these items.
More and better choices for LED lighting -- there continues to be new LED products coming to market. The quality of LED lighting continues to improve with better consistency in color temperature from lamp to lamp and a better selection of color temperature to choose from. With the manufacture of incandescent lights to end in 2012, you can expect alternative choices to continue to appear and pricing of new technologies to continue to trend downward.
Communities will be built with connections to public transportation. That home you bought an hour from the city because it was more affordable for your family carried hidden burdens: the loss of time and the cost of commuting. LEED for Neighborhood Development is the newest in a suite of green building tools to be developed by the US Green Building Council. This planning tool examines how to plan communities to reduce their environmental footprint and bring online the community amenities that create healthier communities: diversity of uses, walk-ability, alternative transportation infrastructure, and more.
Water pressures are not going away and alternatives for conservation fixtures will continue to grow especially as more communities adopt the International Plumbing Code of 2006. Tankless hot water heaters, dual-flush toilets, front-load washers, low-flow showerheads, and rain barrels. One of these days you will not be unique when you retrofit your home with some of these items.
Two other trends that will appear are smart metering where utilities can set back your system when it needs to modulate power usage on a wide scale and distributed clean energy on a residential scale.
Finally, more solar power on homes will be spurred with the development of electric-only vehicles. Somebody is going to figure out that if all those new electric cars are fueled by coal, we will just be trading carbon sources even though the fuel may originate within our borders.
What you will do to live more green in 2011? Let me know in the comments below.