What is different about walking through a Sustainable Home? Is it keeping old rags around to clean things with or is it reusing coffee grinds? I like to think of it more as untapped convenience and novelty. If I were wealthy, I would want to be able to show off what my home is capable of. It is no longer a show of wealth and power to be able to get oranges from Spain and rice from India. The average American most likely consumes more sugar and spice per year than what King Henry VIII consumed in his lifetime. Most people in the Western world are capable of eating like the kings of yesteryear. For a person of means, it is meaningless to use exotic spices and citrus, everyone is used to them. They have no significance.
However, saying that the dragonfruit gelato my guests are eating comes from my in-ground greenhouses powered by geothermal energy, sounds more novel than saying my chef imported the fruit and then made the gelato. Not only does it break up the typical narrative of constant importation from far afield, but it also ensures that the guests can’t get the exact same flavor since it is being grown on your land and not a corporate one to be bought by anyone. Should a chef truly wish to show off the capabilities of the home and therefore the home region, they could look at native edibles. I imagine that extremely few people have been served pawpaw chiffon pie (the American native, see above, and to get the recipe click here). Even for those who can’t afford a chef nor care where the food comes from, sometimes it seems simpler to walk out your backdoor and pick what’s growing in your garden instead of having to go the grocery store and deal with everyone else.
Similarly, the potential for convenience in regards to electricity and water use is quite large when considering a sustainable home. No matter if a person has a small 1000 sq ft home or a 10000 sq ft mansion, if they are connected to the grid, they have to pay a water, sewer, and electric bill. It also means that if the grid goes down because of a storm or other reason (earthquakes, etc.) that unless the homeowner or renter has access to a generator, their power will go out. It is also very unpleasant to deal with boil orders and water supply issues during construction season. While not always possible (due to local laws and regulations), a way to reduce dependency on the outdated grid is collect and filter rainwater or to redirect grey water to the lawn and other plants. It would help to reduce the water bill by not having to bring in fresh water to water the lawn but also reduce the sewer bill by less water going out (especially as sewer bills tend to be based on water consumed). Generators powered by biodiesel or using solar panels minimizes dependency on the outdated electrical grid. Committing to independence from common bills tends to be very uncommon.
Regardless of whether it is food or utilities, a sustainable home can be a novelty in a world of waste and worries. What would your sustainable home look like and what would your guests experience in such a home?